Well, with these two teams, anything other than a close game would not make much sense. In a game where West Virginia outrebounded Louisville 36-28 and shot 12 more free throws, UofL needed every point it could get to cap off a 13 point comeback and leave Morgantown with the 77-74 victory. The win put Louisville at 20-5, 8-4 on the season and dropped West Virginia to 16-10, 6-7.
The big story for the Cards was the much anticipated debut of freshman Wayne Blackshear. Less than 8 minutes into the game, Blackshear made his entrance, and made an immediate impact. He got a defensive rebound and a block right away, and then nailed a 3 pointer on his first attempt! That probably calmed him down, because he looked comfortable the whole game. He finished with 13 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes on 5-9 shooting. His biggest play may have been on a pass though. Trailing 71-68, Blackshear was bringing the ball up the court. Without passing it to Russ Smith (playing point guard at the time), Blackshear kept it himself, and then passed it to Kyle Kuric, who was spotted up in “Kyle’s Corner” and Kuric drilled the 3 pointer to tie the game at 71.
Speaking of Kyle Kuric, the senior made 4-8 from behind the arc and finished with a team high 17 points. (Kyle Kuric Counter) With the Cards up by 1 with under 10 seconds to play, he got a steal and got fouled, and made both free throws to put the Cards up by 3 with 5 seconds to play. Fellow senior Chris Smith finished with 13 points and made 3-5 from 3 point land. Smith also made 2 big free throws. With UofL leading 73-71 and 1:19 left, Smith went to the line for a 1 and 1, and made both shots, giving the Cards a little breathing room.
Peyton Siva and Russ Smith combined to have a good game as well. Siva had 10 points and dished out 5 assists. He established himself early in the game by penetrating and getting to the basket with ease or kicking it out to Kuric or Chris Smith for the open 3. Russ Smith scored 16 points in 16 minutes of play, making all 4 of his free throw attempts. The pressure by he and Siva forced West Virginia to turn the ball over a few times, and that is what sparked the comeback for the Cards.
For West Virginia, Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli really could not be stopped. Jones, who leads the Big East in scoring and in rebounding, finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season. Kilicli had his way around the basket and had 17 points on 7-8 shooting. He hurt himself by picking up a technical in the first half, giving him 3 personal fouls. So he started the 2nd half on the bench, and ended up getting his 4th foul when he did come back in. Darryl “Truck” Bryant had 13 points, but that came on 3-17 shooting.
The Cards now have a quick turnaround, as they will host #2 Syracuse (25-1, 12-1) on Monday at 7:00 on ESPN. This game will be a “white-out” for all fans that are attending. Be sure to pack the house and make some noise!