Louisville Card File: Indiana

joaniecardNow that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

Louisville 94, Indiana 74.

We learned that this edition of the Louisville Cardinals can take a punch, chew some canvas in the second half, then get off the mat to finish the fight as victor.

We learned — yet again — that Montrezl Harrell, when he stakes his claim to that semi circle around the hoop, is the Ruler of His World.

We learned that Terry Rozier, who unfortunately shall be toiling in a Utah Jazz or NJ Nets jersey next year, would, were he to decide to extend his stay on the Belknap Campus, become one of the elite all-around Cardinal guards . . . ever.

But let’s start with Chris Jones.

* * * * *

It was just the other day that consternation furrowed the brows of Cardinal faithful hither and yon, whenever Jones name came up.

“He’s too short.”

“He can’t shoot.”

“He’s selfish, he never passes the ball.”

“He’s trying to get in touch with his inner Russ Smith.”1

“He drives into the paint, then can’t finish.”2

When I failed to mention him in a previous Card File, one reader asked about my omission, wondering what I thought of Jones’ play? To which I replied, it was too early to tell. Despite my trepidation, I thought it too soon to turn him into a villain.

Though it doesn’t come close to demonstrating how Chris Jones took over last night’s tilt, grabbing it back from the Hoosiers’ short and curlies when a Louisville W was slipping into the Big Apple night, the stats are telling.

24 points on 8/17 from the field, 2/4 from beyond the arc. He hit 6 of his 8 charity attempts.

Nine rebounds. Five assists. Three steals. And only three giveaways, at least one of which was a fine pass whose receiver was looking the wrong way.

More important is when Jones harvested those numbers. Which came time and again at critical junctures.

The key one:

IU opened the second half with a 9 nil run to take a 50-46 lead.

Harrell partially stopped the bleeding with a follow of a miss by CJ. But it was matched by a Hoosier tally, maintaining the U of L  disadvantage.

Then Jones took over. He hit a jumper to cut the deficit to a deuce. Then hit a trey, pulling the Cards back ahead. For good, I might add.

Then grabbed two offensive boards on the same possession, finishing it with a lay up. Then found Rozier, garnering an assist on Terry’s trey. 58-52.

That’s some kind of carpe diem.

Chris Jones is never going to be Russ Smith. Nor is he going to be Peyton Siva. He’s not quite as crafty as the former, nor inclined to dish like the latter. But, he’s stronger than both, and, arguably, a more consistent shooter.3

To me, Chris Jones’ was last night’s MVP. It shall not be the last time.

* * * * *

But Terry Rozier and Silent L were close runners up.

Harrell’s made but three treys on the year. Weren’t those all in the first game or two?

You know my point. But allow me to reiterate. He needs to stay under the basket. When he does he can dominate.

I call him a beast under there. Dan Shulman and Mr. V called him a monster. Beast. Monster. Whatever, he deserves his own Marvel comic.

He went for 21 on 10/13 shooting. Seven, give or take a slam, were dunks. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel for Harrell, when he gets the ball within a step of the hoop. Which he did often last night, thanks to Louisville’s best passing/ assist game of the year.

As for Rozier, well, he hit five 3s in 8 attempts, scoring a career high 26 points. Six rebounds. Smoldering D.

Oh, how I love his game.

* * * * *

One is wont to go down the list and mention all the Cards, after a compelling W like last night’s.

Let me hone it to a few other key contributors.

Mango tallied his six points during one first half burst. But they came during a key stretch, when the Cards, in a three minute span starting with 7:46 to go before intermission, jacked up their lead from 30-29 to 42-31.

MM dominated the moment. Several boards. Several blocks. A couple layups and a jumper. The Hoosiers were measured.

Anas Mahmoud, Jaylen Johnson and Anton Gill were steady subs.4

Now a word or three about Wayne Blackshear.

His most noteworthy stat was woeful 1/9 shooting from beyond the arc. I think it an aberration, a throwaway. My observation is that it’s a technique issue, easily correctable. For some reason last night, he never got square on his long range shots. Thus, he was out of balance. My guess is he’ll see it in the films, and it shall be corrected. I, for one, am not concerned.

He still scored 14 and grabbed 7 rebounds. Plus he garnered 5 assists, while blocking three Crimson & Cream Puff shots. And pilfering a steal.

Blackshear played 36 minutes in the Cards most harum scarum, up and down game of the year, and committed zero turnovers. As in none. 0.

* * * * *

Louisville was, to say the least, authoritative on the boards, winning that battle by 18.

The Cards’ 52 retrievals were evenly divided, 26 offensive, 26 defensive.

The Cards scored 25 second chance points.

* * * * *

This Louisville team is going to have a different personality than those of recent years.

Get used to it.

There will be less assists, less fast break points, less scoring help from the bench.5

There will be more D, more grind it out Ws, more less than elegant but still effective grittiness. And, if U of L continues to improve is passing as it did last night, the upside gets higher.

* * * * *

Cards stand 8-0 on the season, 3-0 in the Big Ten.

The Cupcakes Come to the Yum! Tour arrives again Sunday night with the arrival of UNC Wilmington.

— Seedy K

11 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Indiana

  1. Very pleased with the play of all, including CJ of whom i have been ultra-critical to say the least. BUT, the” Whosure don’t play no defense and don’t hurt me around the glass” kids in the peppermint stick warm-up pants certainly did not deter the assaults on the paint from any of the Cards. If the first shot didn’t go in, the Cards retrieved and retrieved the miss and put the ball up often until it did come through the bottom of the net.
    The defensive work done by MM and Anas and Trez as well as Wayne while avoiding fouls was impressive. Anas used his body and length to position himself well, walling off paths to the basket. CJ and Rozier turned in their usual and now expected dogged defense. Gil evidently didn’t hurt on the defensive end since Pitino put him in during one of IU’s brief runs, suggesting he has gained his coaches confidence.
    Let’s hope our Monster of the Midway’s teammates are as successful on paint invasions against more determined and defensively minded opponents.

  2. The “new” Wayne appears to be for real as we all know he would have retreated into his shell in previous years when his shot wasn’t falling. To watch him continue to contribute with driving to the basket, picking up assists, rebounding, and blocking shots was very satisifying. I believe his play and bench development are keys to us being a true high level team.

    Also interesting that we started a woeful 3-10 from the free throw line. Jones and Rozier each going 0-2! I haven’t seen the final stats, but we made a bunch at the end when playing hard and fatigue have been blaimed for poor shooting previously. So what is it? Will it bite us in the end?

  3. Good points, both of youse guys, about Wayne Blackshear. In the last 2:28, U of L hit 11/12 from the line. But still only hit 59% for the game (16/27).

    1. Larry Bird said that a free throw in the first few minutes of a game is just as important as one at the end, in so many words.

      1. Yeah but Bird was a Hoosier so what’s he know?

        And in a serious vein I think all too often the TO is mistakenly charged to the passer when it really is the fault of the intended receiver who botches the catch.

  4. And it was Dicky V’s best game in years. He was often on point as opposed to rambling constantly, his usual style.

  5. Larry Bird was correct.

    cbcard is correct. About his second thought.

    What I realized after the game was, since it was a U of L game and I was so intent on the action, I paid little attention to what he was saying. So he didn’t bother me, as he might have, did I not have a rooting interest. I’ll take note of Vitale when I watch the replay.

  6. I finally have to agree with your analysis — Jones was the MVP last night. He excelled in so many different ways and seemed to be everywhere when we needed him. Nine rebounds just highlights how focused he was on doing more than just scoring. If he can keep playing at this level, and others step up like they did last night, the Cards can come away with a W against anyone on the schedule , even, I dare say, the tall boys from Lexington.

  7. Seedy: “To which I replied, it was too early to tell.” Good answer. November is always too early to tell a team’s character. They’re just starting to emerge now in December, and I like what I see.

    TRez– has made this team what it is with his energy. But he was hitting the FTs the first week of the season. What happened?

    CJ — that was a sweet jump stop move in the first half.

    WB — I’m with Seedy — some respect — he has brought his game and effort up in just a few weeks. He’s doing the things a team needs him to do to win games. And without his free throws, our % for the game would have been laughable.

    AM aka The Egyptian — he’s got some nice moves and he does pass well out of the post, but every time I see him in there I just want to get him a sandwich. He looks like skinny arm Rob Lowe.

    Nanu — I don’t even remember him playing. Is he about to be out of the starting lineup?

    **I like Dickie V, but I understand the criticism. He did stay on point throughout the broadcast and seemed to have done his homework on the 2 teams playing rather than just talk about who he wanted to talk about.

    So even though the Cards are capable of putting a good game like last night’s together, he still rates us the 3rd best team in the state — behind UK’s a and b squads. Do we really have no shot against them?

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