It is quickly becoming both frustrating and difficult to figure out coach Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals. Trailing the Marquette Golden Eagles 65-47 with 5:44 to play two Saturdays ago, the Cardinals went on a 24-5 run to win the game and save themselves from an embarrassing home blowout.
“That’s one of the top five comebacks,” Pitino told the Associated Press. “They outplayed us for the first 34 minutes. I’m really proud of these guys. I’m shaking. It happened so fast.”
Senior guard Preston Knowles hit four three-pointers in that final stretch to finish with 17 points before finding junior guard Kyle Kuric for a lay-up with four seconds left.
Knowles and the rest of the Cardinals carried that momentum into a Wednesday night showdown with the upstart St. John’s Red Storm, crushing them 88-63.
Sophomore guard Peyton Siva came to life, scoring 10 points, handing out 10 assists and notching seven steals in the win.
But just when the Cardinals were beginning to look like a team worthy of the 15th spot in the USA Today poll, they went on the road and lost to the Providence Friars, who hadn’t won a Big East game all season.
The 72-67 upset is yet another bump in the road for Pitino and the Cardinals, who host West Virginia Jan. 26 before traveling to Connecticut and Georgetown later in the week.
DePaul Blue Demons
It should come as no surprise that the DePaul Blue Demons are still without a conference win. The surprise is that they have lost their first seven Big East games by more than 17 points per game and could be looking at another winless Big East season.
After losing both their Big East games this week, a pair of 30-point losses to Marquette and Pittsburgh, things are once again looking bleak for the Blue Demons.
Coach Oliver Purnell has had to rely on a pair of freshmen to carry most of the weight for the struggling Blue Demons (6-13, 0-7 Big East). Guard Brandon Young and forward Cleveland Melvin lead the team in scoring but have not received much help from anyone.
Melvin has saved his best basketball for conference play. He is averaging 21 points per game against Big East opponents and leads all Big East freshmen at 14.3 points per game overall.
“He’s a talented young man,” Purnell said of Melvin. “He’s athletic, and now over the last two or three weeks he’s really become comfortable with what we’re doing offensively. He understands where he can get certain things done.”
While promising for the future, that lack of experience is really hurting the Blue Demons as they struggle through their Big East schedule. Their best shot to pick up a conference victory could come Thursday night when they travel to Tampa, Fla., to take on the South Florida Bulls (7-14, 1-7 Big East).
Player of the Week: Senior guard Corey Fisher
Villanova’s leading scorer was on display this week in two marquee matchups and didn’t disappoint. In a heart-breaking loss to Connecticut Jan. 17, Fisher matched Connecticut junior guard Kemba Walker shot-for-shot to finish with 28 points — including three three-pointers — and six assists.
He then led the Wildcats (17-2, 5-1 Big East) to a huge 83-72 victory over the No.3 Syracuse Orange, scoring 16 points and handing out seven assists. That win moved Villanova into second place in the Big East and cements it as a contender for the regular season championship — as long as Fisher continues to produce.
Game to Watch: Georgetown at Villanova, Jan. 29
After losing three straight games last week, the Hoyas (14-5, 3-4 Big East) rebounded nicely with road wins over Rutgers and Seton Hall. They will look to keep that momentum going when they travel to Villanova this Saturday.
This battle of the backcourts will pit Georgetown’s senior guard Chris Wright, junior guard Jason Clark, and senior guard Austin Freeman against Villanova’s Fisher, sophomore guard Maalik Wayns and senior guard Corey Stokes. A year ago, the two teams split their two games, with the home team coming out on top in each contest.