Louisville Shuts Down Visiting Georgetown

Louisville's Jerry Smith, top, battles Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace for a loose ball during the first half of their basketball game, Saturday Feb. 9, 2008 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Louisville's Jerry Smith, top, battles Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace for a loose ball during the first half of their basketball game, Saturday Feb. 9, 2008 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) (Timothy D. Easley - AP)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2008

LOUISVILLE, Feb. 9 -- The first indication that Louisville's game against sixth-ranked Georgetown was a special occasion for the Cardinals came in the minutes prior to tip-off, when Coach Rick Pitino strode onto the court in a white linen suit. The 20,083 fans who were crammed inside of Freedom Hall -- many of whom were wearing white shirts themselves to help "White Out the Hoyas" -- rose to their feet and roared.

After watching a sloppy first-half performance from the Cardinals, however, Pitino emerged in a black suit after the break. He later explained that his wardrobe switch had nothing to do with changing his team's fortunes, but Louisville was a much better team in the second half and ran off with a 59-51 victory.

The Hoyas, who dropped to 19-3 overall and 9-2 in the Big East, are tied with No. 22 Notre Dame (18-4, 8-2) in the loss column at the top of the league standings. Georgetown hosts Villanova (14-8, 4-6) on Monday.

"This is a tough one," said senior center Roy Hibbert, who scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

But for the Cardinals, this was an exhilarating win that capped a week in which they showed why they were the league's preseason co-favorite along with the defending champion Hoyas. Louisville (18-6, 8-3) -- which began the season ranked sixth nationally but fell out of the top 25 by mid-December as it dealt with injuries and player suspensions -- whipped No. 16 Marquette in Milwaukee on Monday, ending the Golden Eagles' 14-game home winning streak, and then snapped the Hoyas' six-game winning streak.

Senior center David Padgett, whose knee injury earlier in the season helped derail the Cardinals, scored a game-high 18 points and added four assists. Sophomore forward Jerry Smith made as many three-pointers as the Hoyas did (four) in far fewer attempts (five, compared to Georgetown's 22) and finished with 16 points.

The Hoyas were efficient and hard-working as they built a 31-23 lead entering halftime. They ran down rebounds and didn't give up an offensive rebound to the Cardinals. Hibbert was dominant when he got the ball inside, scoring eight points on dunks and hook shots, and Georgetown got good looks as they moved the ball around (51.9 percent shooting).

But things changed in the second half. Pitino told his players that they needed to rebound and "heat them up in the press." Georgetown settled for jump shots and was 8 of 23 from the field (including 1 of 11 three-point attempts). The Hoyas didn't work the ball inside to Hibbert as often. The Cardinals were the ones who were charging after missed shots; they outrebounded Georgetown, 20-9.

"It was a different game the second half," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, whose team had a similar second-half collapse in a loss at then-No. 2 Memphis in December. "I don't want to negate anything they did. They were extremely attentive and they turned up the heat a little bit, but I think it was lapses on our part. . . .

"I think it was moreso us not getting into our offense. We never really got started; too many times we were just playing catch out there instead of getting into situations where we knew what we were doing."

The Cardinals scored their first 17 points of the game off dunks, lay-ups or free throws, and didn't attempt a three pointer until nearly 18 minutes had elapsed. After freshman Austin Freeman (14 points) scored on a runner with 16 minutes 13 seconds remaining, the Hoyas led, 35-31. But they didn't convert another field goal for the next eight minutes. By the time Jeremiah Rivers scored off a cut and lay-up -- one of the rare clean looks the Hoyas had in the second half -- Louisville led, 44-39 with 8:10 left.

The Hoyas got as close as 44-41, but on their next four possessions, they failed to even get the ball to the rim: Patrick Ewing Jr. threw the ball away, Freeman's three-point attempt was blocked, DaJuan Summers couldn't hold onto a pass, and Jessie Sapp traveled.

After the game, Pitino explained his wardrobe change.

"I spilled something on it," he said. "That wasn't the reason. The real reason is, it's very hot in there, I'm sweating like crazy, and not having worn a linen suit since my communion, no one told me that when you're sweating, you can't wear blue filters. They were coming through the white linen, so it was about to look ridiculous."

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