Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 57, #13 UC Irvine 55

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 20th, 2015


Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Wayne Blackshear's Defense May Have Saved the Cards Today (USA Today Images)

Wayne Blackshear’s Defense May Have Saved the Cards Today (USA Today Images)

  1. Experience. UC Irvine was playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament. Louisville? Even a less-than-classic Louisville team yawns at the idea of March pressure. Let’s just look at the end of the game really quick. Tied at 55 with 43 seconds left. Following a timeout, the Anteaters come out and run a quick pick-and-roll with Luke Nelson and Mamadou Ndiaye, get nothing out of it, then reset and wind up with a Nelson (28 percent on way too many threes this season) launching a 30-footer that was off. Then, as the rebound heads into the corner, senior Will Davis gets a little over-eager and runs into freshman Quentin Snider, committing a loose-ball foul 94 feet from the hoop in a tie game with nine seconds left. Snider, cool as a cucumber, drills the front-end of a one-and-one and backs it up with a second. Then on the final possession, Louisville, with two fouls to burn, uses the first, and then with Alex Young expecting the Cards to give another one, gets his pocket picked when the Cards instead go for the steal, unconcerned if they picked up a foul in the process. Rick Pitino has been to seven Final Fours and has won two national titles. Russell Turner has not. As Turner put it in the postgame, UC Irvine was a play away from winning this game. They didn’t make that play. Louisville did. Experience matters.
  2. Louisville Limitations. This is not a vintage Louisville basketball team. They Cardinals have had personnel problems and they’re clearly in between builds. Montrezl Harrell (eight points, four boards) is a fantastic talent, but he’s not the most polished offensive player and there isn’t a true point guard on this squad capable of setting him up on a regular basis. For that matter, there are really only a couple of people on this team – sophomore Terry Rozier and freshman Quentin Snider – even remotely capable of going and getting their own buckets. And, for once, this is a team that is looking up – literally – at the opposition. They got away with the win today and you can rely on the fact that the Cards will give Northern Iowa all sorts of problems. But for Louisville to continue to advance, they’re going to have to win ugly.
  3. The Mamadou Factor. He’s 7’6”. That’s the story right? Nah, that’s only part of it. The normal 7’6” player is a low-minute, low energy, unskilled statue of a man. Mamadou Ndiaye, while still very much a work in progress, defies that stereotype. He played 30 minutes today! He’s very clearly a hard-working player, committed to improving his game. In high school, he was little more than a shotblocker to avoid. Now, he’s added enough strength that he can go and get whatever post position he wants. He’s got a drop step that is a really, really long drop step. He gets up and down the floor. He’s gets down in a defensive stance and slap the floor on defense. It is hard not to love a kid like that.

Star of the GameMamadou Ndiaye. It’s hard to pick a guy from a losing team  here, but really, in terms of star power, this game was all about Ndiaye. Everything that either team did on either end of the court was based on his presence in the paint. In the first 10 minutes of the game, UC Irvine outscored Louisville 17-7 when Ndiaye was on the floor. When he was on the bench, it was 7-0 Louisville. Sure, as the game went on, Louisville adjusted, and the final plus/minus numbers put Ndiaye at just plus-five. But the Cardinals knew what he was up to at every minute he was on the court, and down the stretch, Turner managed his minutes so as to give Ndiaye as much rest as possible.

When Mamadou Ndiaye Is On The Floor, All Eyes Are On Him (Getty Images)

When Mamadou Ndiaye Is On The Floor, All Eyes Are On Him (Getty Images)

Sights & Sounds. Neutral-site underdog love. For the final eight minutes of the game, Key Arena may as well have been the Bren Center because every fan in the place who wasn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Cardinals fan was on the Anteaters’ side. Wyoming fans, for instance, despite their own disappointment at getting bounced in the first game, stuck around and jumped hard on the Irvine bandwagon. And when the final seconds ticked away with Anteaters akimbo on the floor, there was audible disappointment in the building as fans headed to the exits with the favorite coming out ahead.

Wildcard. Wayne Blackshear. It’s been sort of a rough year for Blackshear. Without Russ Smith and Luke Hancock around any longer, the senior was supposed to step into a key offensive role with the Cards. And when Chris Jones was dismissed from the team in February, even greater expectations were heaped on him. Instead, his three-point shooting dipped to a career-low 32 percent, his offensive efficiency rolled back, and he was just another guy. Today he was the team’s leader, scoring 19 points and making the big defensive play to save his team down the stretch. It all goes back to that first point we talked about: experience.

Quotable. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s opening comments. “In my 20 NCAAs, this is the craziest I’ve ever seen it opening up early. There are lots of reasons for it. I thought Jim Calhoun made an excellent analogy. He said, if you limit Tom Brady to a few throws per game and keep his numbers way down, then the possessions don’t go in the way of the Patriots. That’s what’s happening today in college basketball. Possessions are down, so when you get running teams like Notre Dame scoring 69 and Carolina 67, you’re in dogfights.”

What’s Next?  Louisville faces Northern Iowa on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line. UC Irvine should keep everybody except senior Will Davis and they’ll be likely atop the conversation as a a Big West favorite come next October.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *