In all actuality this is how the game was supposed to go. Louisville is the more talented team and should cause huge matchup problems for the Cats. They are bigger, stronger and in most cases, more athletic. Thus going into the game I figured the game could go one of two ways….the Cats could zone it up and play the game in the 50s with a fighting chance to win or play it straight up and likely lose due to their lack of quality players. Gillispie doesnt play zone, thus we have the result today. The game could have been much worse, but the Cards brought out their T-Will selves at the end of the first half, shooting threes and forgetting their strengths of getting the ball down low and taking it to the basket. That brain error was corrected at halftime and in the second half, the talent differential played itself out.
In fact, a lot of credit today goes to Rick Pitino. He had the Cats scouted wonderfully, from his decision to open the game in a trapping zone defense, to his players’ ability to recognize who to come out and guard and who to leave open. The team played 30 minutes of the game as well as they have played all year on offense and very strong on defense as well, shutting down most of what UK wanted to do. It was clear that UL’s focus was on limiting what Patrick Patterson could do down low and they were very successful in making Patrick have his worst game as a Cat. Lots of credit goes to Rick and guys like Juan Palacios, who deserves a strong senior season.
As for the Cats, the performance wasnt awful and had some bright spots. Ramon Harris gave solid minutes, the team showed fight in never giving up and Ramel/Joe continued their “down 20” All-American campaign. Coach Gillispie was able to go with his Best 5 for most of the game and generally produced a solid performance. A couple of things that seem worthy of criticism will not be changed, mainly the refusal to play zone and the decision to not start Joe Crawford or play AJ Stewart a great deal. I thought UK’s offensive movement looked better and the defense was as good as it could be considering the athletic differences between the two teams. Billy Clyde’s style requires athletic defenders and Crawford/Coury dont have it, while Meeks and Jasper are still a half a step slow.
Bottom line…..this is the result that should be expected. Pitino did not screw up and lose the game and his better team won. The Cats took a loss but werent embarrassed and now have a week to get ready for the SEC. It is Cats/Cards, so a loss is never good. But if we are honest with ourselves, we cant really be surprised….