No. 11 Louisville 53, Memphis 44
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Rick Pitino focused on Louisville’s strong defensive effort in its rematch against conference rival Memphis, rather than the Cardinals’ worst scoring night of the season.
The No. 11 Cardinals held the Tigers to 19.6 percent shooting in a 53-44 victory Saturday night. The victory was payback for an 85-68 loss at Freedom Hall earlier this month, the Cardinals’ worst home loss in the Pitino era.
“We wanted to be the definitive defensive team,” Pitino said. “Our defense consists of five people working together. If it’s a one-on-one contest defensively, we’re not going to win. If it’s five men working and understanding the other team’s offense, we’ve got a great shot.”
Taquan Dean scored 14 points and Francisco Garcia added 12 to lead Louisville, whose previous season low was 58 in a loss to Kentucky.
The Cardinals (24-4, 12-2 Conference USA) used a 12-0 run midway through the second half to take the lead. Although the Tigers tied the game once, they never overcame the Cardinals as Juan Palacios scored six straight points and had a block down the stretch.
“They made more shots than us at the end of the game,” Memphis center Arthur Barclay said. “We couldn’t buy a basket. You have games like that. Both teams struggled on offense.”
“We weren’t aggressive at the end,” Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Darius Washington scored 14 for Memphis (16-12, 9-5), which hit only one of its 23 shots from outside the arc. Leading scorer Rodney Carney was scoreless, missing all nine of his shots, including four 3-pointers.
“That was our main focus … to come play defense,” Garcia said. “We didn’t do that in the first game.”
It was a game that featured tough defense and physical play on both ends of the court, contributing to poor shooting nights all around, little offensive punch and 15 turnovers for each team.
The game was the final regular season conference game in the heated rivalry as Louisville is leaving Conference USA after this season to join the Big East. The series dates to the mid-1960s and the Missouri Valley Conference. The two teams, who played periodically before the Valley days, also were members of the Metro Conference before the current C-USA.
They’ll continue the series over the next four years, although conference bragging rights won’t hang in the balance.
Louisville’s revenge factor, the rivalry and a raucous crowd made for an intense night. But the first half was a rite of survival for both teams as they went to intermission tied at 23.
Louisville survived 28-percent shooting and eight turnovers in the first half, while leading scorers—Garcia and Larry O’Bannon—sat on the bench with three fouls each.
Memphis was able to stay close despite even worse shooting—19 percent— and missing all 12 of its 3-point shots. Carney missed all five of his first-half shots, while starting guards Washington and Anthony Rice were a combined 2-of-13.
Memphis closed the half 2-of-16 from the field, including Joey Dorsey’s tip at the buzzer to tie the score.
The Tigers’ poor shooting allowed the Cardinals to stay in a zone through part of the first half while their offensive threats were on the bench, preventing Washington from penetrating like he did in the earlier meeting when he scored 25 points.
“The zone hadn’t bothered us like this all year,” Calipari said. “I’ll tell you what usually happens—we make threes.”
There was some offensive spark in the early stages of the second half as Memphis started going to the basket, building the lead to 39-28 with 9:41 left. But Louisville still had a run of its own, answering with 12 straight points to take the lead.
“We thought we had something going,” Rice said of the Tigers second-half rally. “Then they made their run all of a sudden, and we couldn’t counter.
“They just kept coming at us.”