Highlights: Louisville escapes Purdue, but is a troubling trend starting to emerge?
No. 15 Purdue had no answer for No. 14 Louisville’s length on the defensive end as the Cardinals improved to 6-1 with a 71-64 home win over the Boilermakers (5-2). The win also snapped Louisville’s three game skid against Purdue.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Purdue will have nightmares of Louisville arms
Louisville’s arms were everywhere on the defensive end, disrupting the Boilermakers offense. Purdue did a good job of feeding its big men with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas corralling the ball down low, but they were majorly affected by the length of the front court. Shot attempt? Blocked. Pass attempt? Thrown away.
The Boilermakers were shaken up in the first half, so much so that the game nearly got out of hand. The Cardinals turned good defense into offense in the first half. Have a look:
Swanigan finished with 11 points and nearly notched a triple-double with 11 rebounds and six assists, but the pressure got to him and he made a lot of ill-advised passes that hurt his team. Haas finished with eight points, but he didn’t score until under three minutes and was held largely at bay.
When that duo wasn’t getting blocked on the boards, they felt the pressure. It went from a physical game to a mind game for them in the first half, and it was pretty clear they were playing flustered. That led to too many mistakes.
As a team, Purdue had 17 turnovers. You can’t do that on the road and expect to win.
2. Troubling trend for Louisville emerging?
Less than a week ago, Louisville coughed up a 22-point lead to Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis. On Wednesday, Louisville had a 14-point halftime lead that ballooned to 17 before Purdue made a run. The Cards couldn’t buy a bucket for a stretch in the second half, and that allowed Purdue back into the game. Louisville at times played sloppy in transition and careless with the ball.
There were times even in the first half when Louisville could have put the game away. But playing fast and loose kept the game close, with a missed alley-oop going the other way and flipping momentum that could have easily put the game out of reach.
Louisville let its lead slip to four in the closing minutes before finally salting this one away.
3. Rick Pitino’s bench saved the day
Louisville’s starters shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 18 percent from 3-point range. The Cards bench, meanwhile, shot 80 percent, (12-of-18 from the field, and 2-of-2 from 3).
Ray Spalding lead the way off the Louisville bench and proved to be one of the best players on both ends of the floor. He was active on defense with his length and disruption while finding good looks in pick-and-roll action to get easy buckets around the rim. High percentage shots were there for Spalding.
There wasn’t a bigger shot late in the second than that from reserve Ryan McMahon with just under four minutes to play. Taking the inbound pass, he caught and shot quickly to extend the lead and keep momentum in Louisville’s favor.
Sometimes when your stars have an off night, you need to know what kind of production you’ll get from your bench. And Pitino has to be pleased with what he got from his reserves to help secure the win over Purdue.