Capitals

No. 6 Louisville rallies, downs Memphis 87-78

201212151452535288696-p2.jpeg

No. 6 Louisville rallies, downs Memphis 87-78

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Chane Behanan scored 22 points and No. 6 Louisville rallied from 16 points down in the first half to beat Memphis 87-78 on Saturday.

Louisville (7-1) trailed 25-9 in the first half before pulling out its fourth straight win in this rivalry with a team the Cardinals have played in three different conferences. The Big East will be the fourth when Memphis joins in July.

Russ Smith scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half for Louisville. Peyton Siva added 19 points, and Luke Hancock had 11.

Memphis (6-3) had five players foul out, helping Louisville to a huge edge at the free-throw line. The Cardinals were 38 of 46; the Tigers 14 of 20.

Joe Jackson led Memphis with 23 points and eight assists, and Tarik Black added 21. Geron Johnson added 12 and D.J. Stephens 10.

These teams have been rivals for decades dating back to when both belonged to the Missouri Valley Conference, then the Metro Conference and most recently Conference USA between 1995 and 2005. They're due to be back in the same league starting in July for at least a season in the Big East, if Louisville doesn't bolt early for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Memphis called for a ``blue-out'', and fans responded. They also spent much of the game on their feet, booing or cheering every call and basket. The foul disparity was such that fans stood and cheered the Big East officiating crew derisively when Hancock was called for a foul with more than 6 minutes left

The Tigers outshot Louisville 51.8 percent (29 of 56) to 42 percent (21 of 50) and outrebounded the Cardinals (34-28). They just couldn't overcome the difference at the free throw line.

Memphis led 54-44 on a dunk by Johnson with 12:25 left. That's when the Cardinals took control scoring 13 straight points, and Hancock hit a pair of 3s and Behanan added another. Kevin Ware hit a pair of free throws to cap the spurt and put Louisville up 57-54 with 9:58 left.

The Tigers could get no closer than five in the final minute as Louisville sealed the win hitting 10 of 12 at the free throw line down the stretch.

Memphis now is 0-11 against ranked teams under coach Josh Pastner, even though it looked like this would be the day the Tigers would finally give their young coach his signature win leading 35-28 at halftime.

Louisville jumped out 5-1 before Jackson got Memphis going by hitting a 3, and the Tigers wound up hitting 13 of 22 in building a 16-point lead. Stephens even stepped out and hit a 3-pointer, which put Memphis up 25-9 with 10:05 left. Memphis kept the Cardinals off balance by switching up defenses from its usual man to man, and the Cardinals wound up shooting 8 of 24 through the first 10 minutes.

Louisville also lost Smith for part of the first half when he hurt his left ankle when he collided with Stephens near the Tigers' bench with 6:02 left. Smith laid on the floor and rolled around for a couple minutes before being helped to the bench, unable to put his foot on the floor. But he was back late, though he shot only 1 of 8 from the floor missing all four of his 3-pointers.

The Cardinals took advantage of Memphis turning it over 24 times, turning those into 29 points.

Quick Links

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Brought up to replace the injured Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek's first taste of NHL hockey will come inside the bubble in Toronto. Not exactly the best of circumstances. 

But Vanecek plays an important role on a Capitals team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Should Braden Holtby struggle or get hurt during the playoffs, Washington will need its young back-up goalie to keep their team afloat and let his talented skaters take it from there.

That's why NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May, during an appearance with The Sports Junkies Tuesday, looks forward to seeing Vanecek play a little bit in the round-robin portion of the NHL restart. Ideally, though, it stops there.

"[Vanecek] probably will get one of these games, [the Capitals] said that from the start," May said. "But I hope he doesn't play once they get to the playoff rounds. I think it would be wise to play him in [round robin] games, it's not the end of the world what the seeding is in this. He's a good size goaltender, I think he's about 6'2, and with the training that he's had, he's worked on the fundamentals of his game, he's gotten his conditioning up. He looks very similar to Holtby in net, He's gotten a lot of good reps in American Hockey [League] just like Holtby did around the same age."

And what's the reason why no Caps fan should want to see Vanecek in the postseason? It's simple really. Because this team's best chance at another title revolves around Holtby being a steady and stifling presence between the pipes throughout the playoffs. 

RELATED: PHYSICALITY THE KEY FOR CAPITALS IN PLAYOFFS

"I think the big thing with this is you really don't want to see [Vanecek] in the net after the round robin," he said. "If they're going to win this thing, it's gonna have to be Braden Holtby getting 16 wins. To me, the most important thing is that Holtby plays in the playoffs, the guy's dynamite, no leaky goals out of him."

This could be Holtby's last playoff run with the Capitals as he enters a contract year. The Caps already committed long term money to Nicklas Backstrom this season, they have an Alex Ovechkin extension to worry about and the flat salary cap certainly won't do them any favors either. Not to mention the presence of Samsonov after a stellar rookie season. 

So if this is it, if this is Holtby's last dance in Washington, he at least looks ready to play his best hockey when it matters most.  

"He looks focused and dialed in, and he wants to make sure if he's going out and won't be a Capital anymore he wants to go home with a victory in his last game."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be. 

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS