The Cardinals can breathe a bit easier. Not too easy. Manhattan might still be behind it waiting to play catch up.
Louisville might have played with its food a little too long, certainly too comfortable for those that have Louisville going deep in its title defense. But the Cardinals secured a 71-64 win over the Jaspers in a hard-fought, difficult game.
Manhattan was able to muck up Louisville’s offense for much of the game, holding Louisville to 36.4 percent shooting. The Cardinals seemed capable of pulling away but just could not shake the Jaspers all game. Manhattan was in the passing lanes and in Louisville’s face all game.
Eventually though, depth, talent, athleticism and composure won out. Russ Smith drained a cold-blooded 3-pointer with his team trialing by three points to tie the game. Luke Hancock hit two more from the wing to give the Cardinals a six-point lead. Ultimately, Manhattan could not keep Louisville off the free throw line and the team missed its opportunity.
The Jaspers have a lot to be proud of, but ultimately they just have a plane ride back to the Empire State.
Russ Smith scored 18 points, making 11 of 15 free throws. Montrezl Harrell scored 12 points to go with 13 rebounds. Hancock scored 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting. It was that kind of night for the Cardinals.
Louisville needed a boost from its senior leader after Manhattan unexpectedly took a three-point lead. A trio of 3-pointers put the game firmly in Louisville’s hands. Russ Smith hit the first one, a true pull-up 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game. Smith then found Luke Hancock on the corner twice and he knocked down two 3-pointers in the final two minutes and picked up a steal on a press to give the Cardinals the breathing room they needed.
Xs and Os
Conventional logic says that when you have a speed and talent disadvantage against a pressing team, you slow it down and try to control the pace. That is not what the Jaspers did. Manhattan is a pressing, trapping team itself. Coach Steve Masiello stayed true to his team’s identity throughout. Manhattan did not let up on the pressure and on the trapping throughout the game. They were not going to let anyone dictate the tempo but them. It led to a lot of fun and gave Manhattan a great chance to win.
“The story tonight was we won the game, but any team in this tournament — I mean, Albany played Florida to the mat — because everybody leaving so early, that’s what makes March Madness so much fun. I think we are a very good basketball team. I thought Manhattan was the better team tonight until four minutes to go in the game. And then we were the better team.”
-Louisville coach Rick Pitino
“I thought we played well for about 39, 38 minutes. But that’s what happens when you play great teams. You give them that one opportunity, they make you pay and that’s why this team is a defending national champion and top five in the country. They saw a crack in the door and they took advantage and made a big three.”
-Manhattan coach Steve Masiello
–It was no secret before the game that Manhattan coach Steve Masiello was intimately familiar with Louisville coach Rick Pitino before the game. Masiello was on Pitino’s staff for much ofh is career dating back to the late 80s and early 90s. But this familiar? Twitter was abuzz with how well prepared Manhtattan was for this game. It was as if they knew what Louisville was running and could read the signals Pitino was giving.
–Manhattan got some quality scoring contributions from its key players. Ashton Pankey scored 16 points and Emmy Andujar had 13. The Jaspers’ leading scorers, Rhamel Brown and George Beamon, managed only nine and seven points respectively.