I don't usually get up at 8:30 in the morning to go to a basketball game. Most of the ones I've been to start in the afternoon or evening. Today, though, the first of the four Round of 64 games in Portland started at 10:40 am local time and I needed to allow for time to take the train to the arena rather than driving.
When I arrived at the Rose Garden it appeared that many other fans weren't used to such an early start time as well. There were lots of empty seats except for the sections allotted to the Louisville and Davidson athletic departments for their fans.
As the game started it seemed the teams took some time to get into gear as well. Louisville scored the first five points and it looked like it might be the type of game where the higher seed jumps out to a big lead and doesn't look back. Davidson settled down, however, and worked their way to a 10-10 tie after five minutes. The Cardinals' sophomore center Gorgui Dieng had two blocks in the first three minutes but went to the bench after two quick fouls. I wondered if this might be an opportunity Davidson could take advantage of. However, Louisville had other options up front, namely Jared Swopshire and Chane Behanan. This led Davidson to spend most of the first half attempting long shots. The Cardinal defense sat back and allowed the Wildcats space on the perimeter but most every open look at a superhoop was off target. Had Davidson been able to make more of these the game would have been completely different. As is so often the case, the underdog had to play nearly flawless basketball to have a chance at the upset. Shooting 4-19 (21%) from superhoop range and 35% from the field was a huge deficiency in the Wildcats' game today.
Meanwhile, Louisville used their guard-heavy lineup to drive and pull up, slowly building the lead to 8 by halftime, then 10 with 11 minutes to go, and up to 14 at 3:22 of the second half, though it went quickly went back down to 10. Davidson eventually got the ball inside to Kyle Cohen, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Clint Mann, scoring 13 off the bench. Their cold outside shooting didn't heat up in the second half, however.
The deficit may have been too big for Davidson to make up but for all the work done by Peyton Siva (17 points, 6 assists before fouling out) and Kyle Kuric (13 points) Louisville couldn't turn the game into a complete blowout. The Cardinals were only shooting 40% from the field themselves and the Wildcats didn't allow many offensive rebounds. At the last media timeout, even with a 14-point lead, "Pitino looked pissed in the huddle" as my friend Joel observed. Joel goes to a lot of NBA games but not much college, so I explained a few concepts to him, such as who TMM considers a mid-major.
I often think of the extremes lower seeds like Davidson experience this time of year. Just 10 days ago they pulled out an exciting win in the SoCon championship game and were on top of the world. Now here they were against an opponent above the Red Line, struggling to keep the deficit under 10. Still, the team and fans can be proud of what they've accomplished to get to this point. It ends in a loss but I hope the WIldcats remember more than just how this season's story concluded.
LOUISVILLE 69, DAVIDSON 62 03/15/2012
DAVIDSON 25-8 (16-2) -- N. Cochran 1-4 6-7 9; J. Kuhlman 1-7 0-3 3; J. Cohen 9-19 6-7 24; C. Czerapowicz 2-7 0-0 6; C. Mann 6-9 1-2 13; D. Brooks 1-7 3-4 5; T. Kalinoski 1-6 0-0 2; T. Droney 0-1 0-0 0; W. Reigel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 16-23 62. LOUISVILLE 27-9 (10-8) -- K. Kuric 4-13 5-8 13; C. Behanan 5-9 4-5 14; C. Smith 0-3 4-6 4; P. Siva 7-12 3-4 17; J. Swopshire 1-4 2-2 4; R. Smith 1-7 3-4 6; G. Dieng 2-3 5-7 9; E. Justice 1-1 0-0 2; W. Blackshear 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 26-36 69.
Three-point goals: DAV 4-19 (J. Kuhlman 1-3; N. Cochran 1-3; J. Cohen 0-1; D. Brooks 0-1; C. Czerapowicz 2-6; T. Droney 0-1; T. Kalinoski 0-4), UL 1-5 (C. Smith 0-1; K. Kuric 0-3; R. Smith 1-1); Rebounds: DAV 35 (J. Cohen 10), UL 37 (C. Behanan 11); Assists: DAV 12 (J. Kuhlman 3), UL 8 (P. Siva 6); Total Fouls -- DAV 23, UL 19; Fouled Out: DAV-C. Mann; UL-P. Siva.