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December 23, 2011Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- With 6:32 left in the game, the cushion WKU sat on for the better part of the game quickly deflated.
Toppers freshman guard T.J. Price picked up his fourth foul and on the next play, freshman guard Nigel Snipes picked up his.
A Louisville steal was followed by a turnover from freshman forward George Fant. The Cardinals coasted after a 14-0 run, on their way to a 70-60 win.
But even in defeat, following WKU's 76-63 lay over loss to Furman, it was a welcomed change for coach Ken McDonald.
"Sometimes you have to hit a low point to totally understand how to win a basketball game," McDonald said. "We're talented, but we're young."
For Louisville it was a pair of runs. The Cardinals started out each half cold, but ended on strong runs. They took a 28-12 run and a 37-34 lead into halftime.
"It was just focus," WKU junior guard Jamal Crook said. "There were a couple of times where we had a lack of execution. A lot of it was just focus."
The visiting Toppers jumped out to a 13-point first half lead and came back from a 3-point halftime deficit to take a 48-41 lead with 10:47 left in the game.
But while WKU forced 20 turnovers, the Toppers committed 18 themselves. And the bulk of them came during each of Louisville's half-closing runs.
"The one at the end of the first half really hurt," McDonald said. "You could just feel the energy in the building really shift. It started with a free throw where we weren't ready for the press and that can flip in a hurry with the way Louisville plays."
Crook and freshman guard Derrick Gordon each led WKU with 13 points.
Sophomore guard Russ Smith had a game-high 23 points for the Cardinals, but Gordon said there was plenty positive to take away from playing with and having the No. 4 team in the country in both the AP and USA Today polls on the ropes.
For one, freshman forward Chane Behanan was held scoreless.
"(WKU) is 4-8 and they were playing like they were 8-4," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "That speaks volumes. Besides playing hard, they executed really well."
Most importantly, the Toppers didn't look like the same team that came off that ugly loss to Furman, as well as an 84-76 loss at IUPUI.
"It's probably the only game I've seen where we really played together," Gordon said. "Even though we were losing, we were still clapping it up, getting on each other saying it's not over. I can definitely take that away from it."
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