Time for a knee to the throat until the foe cried, pleaded, “Uncle,” time to grab the game by the short and curlies.
Choose your MMA metaphor. The point is this. Having improbably come back from a monumental deficit, it was the moment to end the deal with extreme prejudice.
With 5:01 on the clock, U of L, once down 17 after a start in the second stanza as woeful as its stunningly incompetent performance in the first, finally grabbed the lead, 64-61. On a Russ Smith trey with the shot clock running down, from, what 25 feet, 28, 30?
Cincy was reeling. The Yum! was rocking. It was time for the sword to come down, time to close the deal.
Sigh. Instead, the rest of the way, U of L only tallied but two, too late Terry Rozier FTs with seconds left, and the game all but wrapped up for Mick Cronin’s steely visitors from up the river.
Here’s what happened during that fateful, not so fun interlude.
An ill advised, too quickly attempted threeball by Smith. Two offensive rebounds by Cincy during a possession, resulting in a couple third chance FTs by the steady, steely Sean Kilpatrick, cutting the Cards’ advantage to a wafer thin digit.
A missed Chris Jones jumper, and a missed three-pointer by Luke Hancock on the same possession after an SVT board. Followed by a second chance tip-in by Bearcat Justin Jackson for a 65-64 Cincy lead. Which they would not relinquish.
A missed Russ Smith lay up. A Montrezl Harrell turnover, when he lost the ball, attempting to post up in the paint.
At desperation time, Kilpatrick hit all four of his FTs.
* * * * *
I must admit I had this game figured out totally wrong.
With a hum going in previous weeks, and a week to prepare for a Cincinnati team that had been winning as ugly as any team in memory, I figured The Rick would weave his magic wand, come up with an fault-free game plan, which the Cards would execute with burgeoning late season panache, and the victory would be won.
Instead, Louisville came out flatter than Death Valley, rustier than the back lot at Vito’s Auto Salvage, with as much rhythm as a group of nuns, trying to dance to Daft Punk.
Louisville missed shots, missed FTs, didn’t hit the boards and didn’t protect the ball.3
Cincy led 28-13 with just under three minutes to go before cocktail quarter hour.
Only a zesty 7 point mini run — A Rozier three, two Hancock FTs and a Silent L slam — made the halftime margin more manageable at 28-20.
The beginning of the second half was as disheartening as that of the first. The Bearcats led by 17 at the first media timeout.
* * * * *
What ensued at that point was heartening, if, ultimately, to no avail.
The Cards pressed. The Bearcats panicked.
Threes. Slams. Steals. More steals. More slams. More energy.
The joint was jumpin’. If you can’t find a partner, find a wooden chair.
The student section acted like a student section oughta. Wacked.4
But, but, but . . . ya gotta close.
When they were down 17, I jotted in my notes, “Syracuse?” Wondering if the Cards could do last night, what they did to the Orange, in similar circumstances, in last year’s Big East tourney final?
The answer is: Not quite.
* * * * *
Louisville’s comeback was, to use the same descriptor as above, heartening. The Cards did show some brass, even if they didn’t get the W.
But, that game looks like a metaphor for the season. U of L is going to be haunted by mediocre rebounding, a lack of presence in the middle, inconsistency and an offense that relies too much on one-on-one play and not enough on motion and passing.
* * * * *
I certainly admire what Cronin has fashioned this season. Cincinnati plays to the absolute maximum of its ability.
The Bearcats are offensively challenged. To say the least. But they move their feet on D. They block out and hit the boards. They hit their free throws. They’re quick to the ball.
Cliche time: They bend but don’t break. At least they didn’t last night.
* * * * *
The buzz in the media room before the game was about Tim Sullivan’s odd column about Rick Pitino’s reaction to the hiring of Bobby Petrino.
The explanation offered by U of L that Petrino wasn’t introduced to the crowd at the basketball game the night he was hired was, plain and simple, obfuscation. It was said that the new football coach was recruiting, when, in fact, he was at the game.
* * * * *
I also chatted up Jody Demling, who is tapped into the recruiting circuit, and asked about the McD’s All-American choices. He believes both Quentin Snider and Shaquan Aaron were worthy of selection. But understands why they weren’t.
Aaron played on an Adidas AAU team. So he didn’t have the exposure the Nike teams do during the summer.5 Plus he plays in the northwest, where very few of the selection committee guys get to see him. Jody said Snider’s AAU team didn’t get as much exposure as they might have.
Plus, he believes, as I do, that the team selections are always skewed toward the players signing with the elite schools. Like UK, Duke and Carolina.
None of which is to say that the prepsters selected aren’t worthy.
— Seedy K