The Cardinals are streaking in the wrong direction now.
After falling apart in the final minute to lose to Syracuse on Saturday, the end-game meltdown reared its ugly head again against Villanova tonight as Louisville loses on the road 64-73.
The Cardinals found themselves down two at halftime, 28-30. They worked their way to a six point lead by the halfway mark of the second half, but Villanova wouldn't go away.
With six minutes to play, Villanova's Daniel Ochefu would tip in a Wildcat miss to put the Wildcats up 53-52 - a lead that Villanova would not relinquish. After a Chane Behanan free throw for Louisville tied it up at 53, a pair of Villanova threes would put Louisville down 53-59 and the game was over at that point. Louisville didn't make a field goal between the 8:28 and and 2:58 marks (only a single free throw make during that stretch). The result: a deficit that stretched to as much as a dozen while Louisville continued to miss free throws, miss shots, and turn the ball over. Wayne Blackshear would connect on a three with 0:09 left in the game just to get the margin under double-digits, and to our final of 64-73.
Without a doubt, Louisville coach Rick Pitino is going to have the Cardinals practicing a heck of a lot of free throws between now and their next game on Saturday. The Cardinals were an atrocious 12 of 24 from the charity stripe, including just 1-for-8 from that 8:28 mark until the end of the game.
The other big takeaway from the end of the game? Sophomore forward Chane Behanan was a massive liability down the stretch, and he might see some bench while Rick works on that attitude. Behanan missed free throw after free throw during the stretch run, and his frustration spilled over into the rest of his game, particularly on the offensive end. There was a stretch late in the game when it seemed like every possession was either a Behanan missed free throw (he went 3-for-9) or a Behanan lost-control-of-the-ball turnover. It reached a point where Behanan had just given up , and Pitino had to take him out and sit him the rest of the game; but the damage was already done at that point.
Louisville's leading scorer in the game was Wayne Blackshear with 17, collected on five three-pointers and a single shot inside the arc. Senior guard Peyton Siva and junior center Gorgui Dieng would also score in double-figures, with 15 and 10 respectively.
Louisville's leading scorer on the season, junior guard Russ Smith, had a poor shooting night, connecting on just 2 of 13 from the floor. He would finish with eight points.
The outcome of this game was completely based on free throws and turnovers. Louisville won the turnover battle 17-18, but the Cards aren't a team that normally want to be that high or that close. But from the free throw line, Louisville's 12 of 24 (50%) was pathetic in comparison to Villanova's 22 of 29 (75.9%). In fact, the numbers are pretty obvious: Nova's 10 point advantage from the free throw line was more than their winning margin (9). If Louisville knocks down some freebies, this is a game again.
The loss drops Louisville to 16-3 overall, and 4-2 in Big East play.
Louisville will have the rest of the work week to lick their wounds - well, as much as Rick will let them anyways. They'll take their two game losing streak to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to take on the Georgetown Hoyas. Georgetown (13-4, 3-3) is coming off of a decimation of 24th ranked Notre Dame on the road on Monday night, 63-47. Without a doubt, the showdown at the Verizon Center on Saturday is a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions. Louisville enters the contest in desperate need of a win to right the ship, and you can see if they get it on Saturday at noon on ESPN.
Here's to a much needed, good few days of practice.