Fatigue and injuries finally caught up to No. 6 Louisville while in Las Vegas. The Cardinals will now try to leave “Sin City” with some pride and a victory in the third-place game of the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday when they play Old Dominion.
Louisville (3-1) will be playing its third game in four days without injured starting forwards David Padgett and Juan Palacios. While the Cardinals do have a wealth of talented players to replace them, the lack of cohesiveness without the duo as well as the strain of playing two of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference caught up to them in a 78-76 loss to Brigham Young on Friday.
“We’re a depleted basketball team. We’re running out of gas,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team won by 20 at UNLV on Wednesday. “BYU earned the win. They made tough shots with the game on the line. We turned it over way too much.”
There were some positives for the Cardinals. Sophomore forward Derrick Caracter went 10-for-12 from the field and scored 24 points, and Earl Clark added 17, but Terrence Williams went 3 of 12 and committed seven of Louisville’s 16 turnovers.
Additionally, the Cardinals were just 5 of 17 from 3-point range and have gone 16-for-57 from beyond the arc in their last three games after drilling 22 of 35 in their season-opening 104-69 rout of Hartford on Nov. 17.
Clark finished with seven rebounds and failed to record a double-double for the first time this season. He is averaging 15.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Old Dominion (3-2) likely will enter this game with some confidence after playing No. 1 North Carolina on near-even terms for a half before losing 99-82 in the other semifinal Friday night. Brandon Johnson scored 16 points to lead five Monarchs in double figures, but Old Dominion—entering the game holding opponents to just 34.2 percent shooting—had its interior defense shredded as the Tar Heels shot a blistering 71 percent (39-for-55) from the field, including 22 of 30 in the second half.
“We should have done a better job defensively,” Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. “I’m sure Roy’s (happy) looking at (70) percent from the field. We had a hand in some of their faces on the shots.”
Johnson, Gerald Lee and Abdi Lidonde are each tied for the team lead at 10.6 points per game for Old Dominion, which did have season highs of its own in shooting percentage (55.4) and 3-pointers (10) in Friday’s loss. The Monarchs, though, fell to 1-9 against Top 25 teams since the start of the 1996-97 season.
That lone win, though, came last season at then-No. 8 Georgetown
This will be the first meeting between the teams.