University of Louisville

Pitino: Don't be blinded by rally's glow

Louisville coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team in their NCAA college basketball game against Marquette in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Louisville came from 18 points down in the second half to score a 71-70 victory.  (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Louisville coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team in their NCAA college basketball game against Marquette in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Louisville came from 18 points down in the second half to score a 71-70 victory. (AP Photo/Garry Jones) AP

LOUISVILLE — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino isn't exactly reveling in his team's remarkable comeback against Marquette on Saturday.

The Cardinals trailed by 18 with 5:44 remaining before closing the game with a 24-5 flurry. Forward Kyle Kuric's layup with four seconds remaining lifted Louisville to an improbable 71-70 victory and provided the program's new downtown arena with its first signature moment.

Pitino told his players to relish the rally but don't dwell on it. He's been on both sides of them, including leading Kentucky back from a 31-point deficit against Louisiana State 17 years ago, the greatest comeback in college basketball history.

As thrilling as the stunning turnaround against the Golden Eagles was, it still only counts for one win. All that momentum will evaporate quickly if No. 19 Louisville (14-3, 3-1 Big East) doesn't build on it Wednesday against St. John's (11-5, 4-2).

"We had to have that game; we have to have this game," Pitino said. "You don't know where the wins are going to come from in this conference. You have no idea."

Maybe, but it certainly looked as if the Cardinals knew where a loss was going to come from after Marquette bullied its way to a 65-47 lead in the game's first 34 minutes.

It's those 34 minutes, not the six that followed, that Pitino has talked about most. Louisville struggled in its halfcourt offense, couldn't stay out of foul trouble and looked overmatched at times.

If it happens again on Wednesday, Pitino said, the outcome will probably be very different against the improved Red Storm, who routed No. 16 Notre Dame on Sunday.

Sophomore point guard Peyton Siva watched from the sidelines as freshman Elisha Justice filled in during the big rally. Justice did little more than get the ball into the hands of senior guard Preston Knowles, but he also didn't turn over the ball, something Siva has done with alarming regularity recently. Siva gave it away four times against the Golden Eagles and missed all five of his field goals.

Pitino said he isn't concerned about the benching shaking Siva's confidence. The coach, however, also won't hesitate to go to Justice again if the talented but sometimes erratic Siva hits another rough patch.

Justice's steady play was one of several revelations against Marquette. Enigmatic junior center Terrence Jennings, who lost his starting spot to freshman Gorgui Dieng last month, played his best game of the season. He grabbed eight rebounds, converted four critical free throws in the last 50 seconds and blocked a layup attempt by Dwight Buycks to set up the game-winning basket.

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