The Cincinnati Bearcats entered Saturday's contest on the heels of a road loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers, and were hoping for that one big win to put themselves in good position to make the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, that win will have to come elsewhere as the Bearcats fell at home 72-63 at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals.
The Cardinals (21-5, 12-2) have now scored more points in the last three games than any other three game stretch so far this season, and a big reason for that has been senior Terrence Williams. Williams continued his strong play against the Bearcats, scoring 20 points and adding five assists.
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino had nothing but positive things to say about his senior star after the game.
"I think he is one of the top seven players in the country. This young man is a freak athlete, and he has learned how to play the game as good as anyone I have ever coached," said Pitino. "He's a great passer, defender, and rebounder. He has a high basketball IQ, he's a great steal guy, and he is strong as an ox."
The Bearcats (17-10, 7-7) were able to hang with the Cardinals for the entire first half, but the Cardinals fast and furious style of play helped them pull away in the second half. After the game, an obviously upset Mick Cronin gave his thoughts on the way the game played out.
"We got dominated on the defensive glass, and we got dominated on the offensive glass," said Cronin. "We lost the effort related stats. We got physically outmanned. Other than that there is not much else to talk about. We just got physically outmanned."
Cronin continued on, saying Louisville's full court should not be used as an excuse.
"There are no excuses," said Cronin. "Earl Clark played 38 minutes, Terrence Williams played 40 minutes, and they didn't get worn out."
The Bearcats have been one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the Big East throughout the season, but it was the Cardinals who won the battle on glass. Louisville out rebounded Cincinnati 38-27, and completely dominated the Bearcats on the offensive glass, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds and pouring in 19 second chance points.
"They dominated us on the glass," said Cronin. "They missed 29 shots, and got 17 offensive rebounds. That's like sixty-something percent. That's unbelievable. That would lead the world in basketball."
He continued, "You have to give them credit, because they did everything they could to get second and third opportunities, but the problem was we had all week to prepare and new that was the key to the game. We just didn't get the job done."
The Cardinals also benefited from being able to contain the Bearcat leading scorer Deonta Vaughn for most of the night. Vaughn said after the game that Louisville did a great job of getting a hand in his face and forcing him out of his game.
"They picked up the intensity in the second half," said Vaughn. "When we did pass the pall in the high post we had good looks we just didn't knock down the shots. But when I did give it up it was like they were denying me every time. But they played well today. We tried to execute and just didn't do it."
The Bearcats are undoubtedly upset after dropping such a hard fought game, but they will need to immediately turn their focus to Thursday's game against West Virginia. West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins will make his first return trip to the Queen City, and the atmosphere is sure to even bigger than it was for this game.
The Bearcats tournament hopes took a big hit with this most recent defeat, but all hope is not lost. The Bearcats have four games remaining on their schedule, and a win in each of those would certainly put them back in contention headed into the Big East tournament.