At halftime of Louisville's game against Detroit, a video of the Cardinals players singing a particularly cringe-inducing version of the...
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At halftime of Louisville’s game against Detroit, a video of the Cardinals players singing a particularly cringe-inducing version of the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” ran on the Freedom Hall scoreboard.
It was the only really good laugh the Cardinals enjoyed during their 56-48 victory Saturday.
Though the Cardinals (9-1) won their 12th consecutive home game thanks to 15 points from Taquan Dean and 12 from Brandon Jenkins, it was hardly the kind of dominant buzzer-to-buzzer performance coach Rick Pitino said his team needs to compete in the Big East.
“I’m not pleased with our improvement,” Pitino said. “All of our guys are having a difficult time playing for 40 minutes.”
The 11th-ranked Cardinals only really needed 11 solid minutes at the end of the first half and a 16-5 advantage at the free-throw line to beat the Titans (6-7), who were led by Brandon Cotton’s 17 points.
Louisville won despite shooting just 27 percent from the floor in the second half and failing to use their size advantage inside. Detroit outscored the Cardinals 20-12 in the paint and matched Louisville’s 29 rebounds. The Titans could have pulled the upset if not for 16 turnovers.
“We were our own worst enemy at times,” Detroit coach Perry Watson said. “We put ourselves in position to win but put them on the line too much.”
The free throws were the only real offense the Cardinals could muster in the second half, when poor shot selection and almost zero ball movement gave Pitino flashbacks of a 12-point loss at Kentucky on Dec. 17.
“At times in the second half we reverted back to what we did against Kentucky, that was playing too much one-on-one,” Pitino said. “We’re not a great one-on-one basketball team, we’ve got do to it with passing, screening and rebounding.”
Or, as the Cardinals did in the second half against the Titans, with defense. For all their offensive struggles, the Cardinals kept the Titans from getting close enough to make it scary. Detroit never made it a one-possession game, though they did cut it to five with 38 seconds left.
Louisville’s Brad Gianiny made four straight free throws to fend off the Titans, but the Cardinals hardly expected to be in a position where they would need free throws in the final minute.
“It seems like every time we have a chance to blow people out we miss a couple of easy shots,” center David Padgett said. “Our defense was OK but our offense broke down way too early. The second half we kind of stood around a lot.”
Detroit did its best to slow the game down, running 25 to 30 seconds off the shot clock before putting the ball in the air.
The slow tempo frustrated the Cardinals, who seemed to get antsy when they couldn’t get out on the break.
Detroit held Louisville to six points over the game’s first nine minutes before the Cardinals responded behind the presses and traps that have become as much a part of Pitino’s legacy as his fashionable wardrobe.
With Jenkins and guard Andre McGee at the top of the press, the Cardinals put together a 13-3 run to take a 20-13 lead. After the Titans climbed back within 23-20, Dean momentarily broke out of his recent shooting slump.
The senior scored Louisville’s last 11 points of the half, including three three-pointers.