Cards latest No. 1 to fall as Texas Tech pulls upset

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A college basketball story in the New York Times Tuesday morning had this headline: "Louisville and Ohio State Are Soaring."

No more, at least in one case. Before the day ended, U of L (9-1) had come back to earth with a thud as unranked Texas Tech (6-3) pulled off a stunning 70-57 upset in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden and more than likely ended the Cardinals' two-week reign at No. 1.

U of L became the fourth team to lose as No. 1, so now No. 2 Kansas or No. 3 Ohio State will probably take over the top spot when the new polls are released next Monday.

"I think it just means it's a great year for college basketball," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said of the revolving door at number one.
U of L had won two games as the top-ranked team, beating No. 4 Michigan and Pittsburgh, but couldn't overcome the gutsy play of Texas Tech, which was 0-6 all-time against No. 1 teams and staggered into the Big Apple on a three-game losing streak.

It was no fluke. The Red Raiders dominated the game despite being young, outsized and shorthanded by virtue of playing without their leading scorer, freshman guard Jahmi'us Ramsey (17.3 ppg).
Didn't matter. As ESPN commentator Jay Bilas pointed out often throughout the game, Texas Tech was stronger, tougher and played harder. He would get no argument on that count from disgusted U of L coach Chris Mack, who kept his players in the locker room for 20 minutes afterwards.

For their effort, the Red Raiders were rewarded with a standing ovation from the Garden crowd for the second year in a row, duplicating the appreciation they got last season after upsetting Duke, which turned out to be a harbinger of their NCAA Tournament run that resulted in a runnerup finish to Virginia.

It was far from the Louisville team that had shown up throughout November and early this month. The Cards' offense was terrible. They rushed shots and were so sloppy with the ball that they committed a season-high 19 turnovers that Texas Tech converted into 18 points. U of L shot a season-low 34.0 percent on 18-of-53, including 3-of-17 from 3-point land.

Point guard Darius Perry committed six turnovers and didn't have a single assist. Jordan Nwora was 4-of-16 overall and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc while scoring a season-low 14 points. Steven Enoch was U of L's only other double-figure scorer with 10 points, but he got just eight shots because the Cards mysteriously ignored him for most of the evening.

But a stagnant offense wasn't the Cards' only problem. They also missed block-outs and were lackadaisical too often on defense.

"We didn't play very well," Mack said, vastly understating his team's poor performance. "Early in the game when we got a seven-point lead we were getting a ton of defensive stops and we just couldn't convert on them. We made some ill-advised decisions, we charged on a couple of two-on-ones, we took a couple quick shots.

“We really didn't test their defense and really set the wrong tone on offense. You give credit to Texas Tech, I think they're a terrific defensive team. Our defensive intensity after our offense was letting us down was really disappointing. We've talked about staying in games no matter what your offense did and tonight we could never really get our offense going.

"I think (the charges) mess with your psyche, but we have to be more mature, continue to drive the ball, be under control when we get there and we didn't do that. We took bad shots like we had a lot of underclassmen on the floor instead of upperclassmen. We've talked ad nauseum about when you have bad offensive nights where you can't get going, you've got to believe in your defense and play inspired basketball, and for the first time all year, I felt we really let our guard down on that end of the floor, feeling sorry for ourselves. We've got to grow from this as disappointing as it is."

Junior guard Davide Moretti led Texas Tech with 18 points, while freshman guard Terrence Shannon had 13 and Avery Benson, a shaggy-haired redshirt sophomore, gave the winners a big lift off the bench with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

"He's a three-year player for us, that's what he's supposed to do," Beard said of Benson. "I have confidence in all our players, but Avery certainly answered the bell tonight."

So did grad transfer guard Chris Clarke. In direct contrast to Perry, the former Virginia Tech player dished out six assists, led all rebounders with 12 and also had seven points.

"Our effort was there, our energy was there," said Beard, whose team was No. 11 in the preseason poll but dropped out after its first two losses. "I told our players before the game that we didn't have to be better than Louisville, we just had to be better tonight. We dropped out of the top-25 quick, but we're pretty good. I hope people remember."

U of L trailed for all but the first 6  1/2 minutes of the game. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Moretti staked the Red Raiders to a 47-36 lead with 11:43 left. An 8-1 spurt narrowed the gap to 48-44, but the Cards could get no closer and Texas Tech pulled away again in the last four minutes.

The Cards will have a few days to regroup before hosting Eastern Kentucky at noon Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.


Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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