Louisville Card File: Manhattan

dunikcardRule #1: Survive and advance.

It was no less an authority than Al McGuire, who once opined that you’d always have at least two nailbiters along the way, if you were going to advance in The Dance.

Last night, the Cardinals got one out of the way — 71-64 over Manhattan — in the Round of 64.

Remember style points matter not in the tournament. There are no Russian judges to please.

Score more points than the other team. Play in the next round.

* * * * *

At THE critical juncture of last night’s heart attack of a game, I was reminded of a conversation with Luke Hancock at Media Day before the season. I asked him how the Cards were going to fill the void of leadership with Peyton and Gorgui gone?

Without haughtiness or bravado, but with steel-eyed quiet confidence, he looked at me and said, “I’d like to think I had something to do with that.”

Point taken.

With 2:07 on the clock, Wayne Blackshear knotted the game at 60 on a layup, with an assist from Chris Jones.

lukeLuke stole the inbounding ball, drove it directly to the hoop, was fouled by Rhamel Brown — his 5th — and proceeded to drain both FTs for a 62-60 advantage at 1:53.

After Silent L blocked a Michael Alvarado layup and secured the rebound, Luke stroked a dagger of a three at 1:19. 65-60.

At :28, he answered an Ashton Pankey deuce, with another stone cold trey, this one from the left side. 68-62.

In a 1:25 stretch with the Cards on the verge of elimination, Luke Hancock, with that same resolve that felled Michigan, and the same confidence that put this scribe in his place, grabbed Louisville’s 2014 tourney opener by the short and curlies and made it his.1

It was, Dan Bonner said, “A championship response.”

For the game, the reigning Final Four MOP tallied 16 points, including 6/6 at the line, along with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and incalculable leadership.

* * * * *

russRuss Smith was, well, All Russ All Night.

He led all scorers with 18 points. He made 11 of 15 FTs.

He turned the ball over to the Jaspers 6 times, half of the Cards total of a dozen.

He never seemed in command of his game.

But at the 3:23 mark, when U of L’s 54-51 advantage had morphed into a 55-58 deficit after a 7-1 Jasper spurt, when visions of the Memphis State game were stomping through our memory bank, when color announcer Brian Anderson had just said, “Louisville, the defending champions, are on the ropes,” Russ grabbed a pass from Luke and, without blinking, turned to the hoop, firebombing Stevie Mas’s Jaspers with a treyball.

It knotted the tussle at 58. It was HUGE.

In the previous 8:58 of clock time, Louisville had made but one FG, a Silent L layup that gave the Cards a short-lived 53-50 lead.

* * * * *

With his puffed chest and hyper-kinetic sideline demeanor, Steve Masiello is an easy target to make fun of.

I shall demean his coaching potential no longer after his adroit performance last night.2

He had his already tough Manhattan team ready and poised. Louisville was unable to run its offense the entire night. The Jaspers cut off every option.

The pupil was schooling his teacher.

That was on defense. Meanwhile, the Green team was executing Pitino’s offense with panache.

Rick Pitino, glossy as his record might be against former assistants,3 was outcoached last evening.

He did do one wise thing late, after the Cards had secured the lead described above. He put a lineup on the floor of FT shooters. Luke, Russ, Wayne, Chris and Montrezl. I know, Silent L is not stellar at the line. But he spent one last minute offensive possession, standing out of vision in a far corner, making no moves to touch the ball. Then RP inserted Terry Rozier, to avoid any possibility that Harrell would have to go to the line.

Other than that, Pitino made no adjustments and Masiello dictated how the game was played.

* * * * *

In a stunning reversal of a season long trend, the Cards won the game at two unlikely spots. And one where they’ve prevailed all year.

They were 27/35 (77%) at the line. While Manhattan, which led the country this season in FT attempts per game, was only 15/21 (71%).

In the first half, the Jaspers were only 2/2, while the Cards went 10/12, for a six point lead at the break.

Louisville won the battle of the boards by 11, 42-31. Sixteen of those caroms were at the offensive end, resulting in 14 second chance points, an 8 point advantage. Montrezl had 13, SVT, 7.

U of L had 22 points off turnovers, a 13 point margin over the vanquished.

* * * * *

After the game, Pitino praised Luke Hancock, of course, but also Wayne Blackshear.

“Wayne was an unsung hero, had to give us great minutes, great defense and did a super job.”

Despite 2/11 shooting, I also thought Chris Jones was relentless, never pulling back on the throttle. He was 6/6 at the line. Along with 5 rebounds, three assists and a couple of steals.

* * * * *

Note to NCAA, which always always has the welfare of its student athletes in mind.

This game tipped off at 10:33 p.m..

This game ended at 1:03 a.m., after which, sleep and homework be damned, several of the players from both teams were required to meet with the media.

* * * * *

Rule #2: You only play who you play.

Next: St. Louis. Tip at 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

— Seedy K

1 thought on “Louisville Card File: Manhattan

  1. My comment all night was, “so this must be what it feels like to play UofL?” That press of theirs was swarming, to the point that it looked like they had seven players guarding us when we were taking it up court.

    That said, to pull out the W when we shot that poorly is a good sign. Glad we (hopefully) got our Wichita State game out of the way early.

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