LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- At halftime of Louisville's (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) game against
Detroit, a video of the Cardinals players singing a particularly
cringe-inducing version of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" ran
on the Freedom Hall scoreboard.
It was the only really good laugh the Cardinals enjoyed during
their 56-48 victory Saturday.
Though the Cardinals (9-1) won their 12th straight home game
thanks to 15 points from Taquan Dean and 12 from Brandon Jenkins,
it was hardly the kind of dominant buzzer-to-buzzer performance
coach Rick Pitino said his team needs to compete in the Big East.
"I'm not pleased with our improvement," Pitino said. "All of
our guys are having a difficult time playing for 40 minutes."
The Cardinals only really needed 11 solid minutes at the end of
the first half and a 16-5 advantage at the free-throw line to beat
the Titans (6-7), who were led by Brandon Cotton's 17 points.
Louisville won despite shooting just 27 percent from the floor
in the second half and failing to use their size advantage inside.
Detroit outscored the Cardinals 20-12 in the paint and matched
Louisville's 29 rebounds. The Titans could have pulled the upset if
not for 16 turnovers.
"We were our own worst enemy at times," Detroit coach Perry
Watson said. "We put ourselves in position to win but put them on
the line too much."
The free throws were the only real offense the Cardinals could
muster in the second half, when poor shot selection and almost zero
ball movement gave Pitino flashbacks of a 12-point loss at Kentucky
on Dec. 17.
"At times in the second half we reverted back to what we did
against Kentucky, that was playing too much one-on-one," Pitino
said. "We're not a great one-on-one basketball team, we've got do
to it with passing, screening and rebounding."
Or, as the Cardinals did in the second half against the Titans,
with defense. For all their offensive struggles, the Cardinals kept
the Titans from getting close enough to make it scary. Detroit
never made it a one-possession game, though they did cut it to five
with 38 seconds left.
Louisville's Brad Gianiny made four straight free throws to fend
off the Titans, but the Cardinals hardly expected to be in a
position where they would need free throws in the final minute.
"It seems like every time we have a chance to blow people out
we miss a couple of easy shots," center David Padgett said. "Our
defense was OK but our offense broke down way too early. The second
half we kind of stood around a lot."
Detroit did its best to slow the game down, running 25-30
seconds off the shot clock before putting the ball in the air.
The slow tempo frustrated the Cardinals, who seemed to get antsy
when they couldn't get out on the break.
Detroit held Louisville to six points over the game's first nine
minutes before the Cardinals responded behind the presses and traps
that have become as much a part of Pitino's legacy as his
With Jenkins and guard Andre McGee at the top of the press, the
Cardinals put together a 13-3 run to take a 20-13 lead. After the
Titans climbed back within 23-20, Dean momentarily broke out of his
recent shooting slump.
The senior scored Louisville's last 11 points of the half,
including three 3-pointers. It seemed to be the confidence boost he
needed after shooting just 27 percent from the floor over his three
But the touch left him in the second half. He went scoreless in
the final 20 minutes, missing all four shots before leaving the
game in the final minute with leg cramps.