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March 7, 2008
When the Big East schedule came out, the season-ending matchup Saturday between Louisville and Georgetown certainly looked worth circling. Expectations were high for both teams. The Cardinals were fifth in the Rivals.com Preseason Top 25, and the Hoyas - coming off an appearance in the Final Four - were 10th.
But five games into the Big East season, Louisville was 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big East. Suddenly it looked like an eraser might be needed for that circle.
Then Rick Pitino and Co. called Office Max and canceled the eraser. They regrouped after a 92-82 road loss to Seton Hall on Jan. 19. They rededicated themselves on the defensive end, and they found some offense, too.
They arrive for Saturday's meeting at the Verizon Center having won 11 of their past 12, including nine in a row. One of the nine was a 59-51 bludgeoning of the Hoyas in which the Cardinals held them without a field goal for nearly eight minutes in the second half.
"I just told them to play it possession by possession, play great defense," Pitino said. "As long as you play great defense, you'll always have a chance. We turned up the pressure in our press and that helped."
So did Pitino's halftime switcheroo. The coach came out for the game looking like the Good Humor man in an all-white ensemble because it was a "White Out" game. But with the Cardinals trailing 31-23 at the break, he donned a black suit for the final 20 minutes. Louisville held Georgetown to 20 second-half points and won going away.
"I don't want to negate anything that they did; they were extremely attentive and turned up the heat a little bit," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "But you know I think it was lapses on our part. They played well. They are a very good team. They are a very well-coached team. They are a deep team and they have a team that has many pieces that can hurt you. They play well together and that showed up in the second half."
Here's a closer look at the second Cardinals-Hoyas matchup: