U of L’s offensive inefficiency this season is well chronicled and statistically proven. Until Rick Pitino is able to nurture more points from Wayne Blackshear, Chinanu Onuaku, Shaqquan Aaron, David Levitch, Anton Gill or some combination thereof, the Cards are going to struggle against other top shelf teams.
Effective defense alone can only carry a club so far.
For the doomsayers, remember this. U of L is a perennial Top 25 school. Some years, that translates to a #1 or #2 seed. Other campaigns, like this one more than likely, it means a #4, #5 or #6. Deal with it. It happens. The folks who are faithful to the Gators, Sparty and the ‘Cuse are also wearing furrowed brows today.
The good news is that it’s still mid-January. There’s a full week before Louisville’s next encounter, a visit to Pitt. And, for all the nit picking with The Rick’s ways, he’s a competitor, and gives 100+% effort during the season to improve his teams.
Still, yesterday’s headlines hurt. The Cards’ chances took a hit sometime very soon after the Duke locker room’s doors closed after their 16 point beatdown to Miami in Cameron Indoor. Though they are bluish believers in Beelzebub, I trust there was a come to Jesus moment, foisted upon them by Preacher Krzyzewski.1
There are any number of reasons why Coach K, love him or hate him, is unarguably the best coach ever in the game, a mentor but a week away from an unprecedented four figure W. Several of them were on display yesterday at the Yum!.
The ability to adapt, going against predilection by playing zone. Refocusing his young squad in an alien environment. He wasn’t about to lose three in a row.
To best the Blue Devils, the Cards were going to need to be clicking on all cylinders.
To be less oblique, they needed to play their usual stifling defense. To catch some breaks.
And to make a reasonable percentage of their shots. Which they did not.
* * * * *
The Cards drained their first shot of the tilt, a trey by Chris Jones, sixteen seconds after tip.
The Cards canned their final three shots before intermission, a running J from Anton Gill, a deuce by Mangok Mathiang, and that four bounce rim job by Montrezl Harrell at the buzzer.
In between, well . . . Clank!!! Doyinyinying!%#!?!! Briiiiiiick! U of L connected on but 3 of 27 field goal attempts, 1/12 long balls.
That considered, a ten point deficit at the break wasn’t all that disheartening.
What was disheartening, and the ball game essentially: Immediately after play resumed, Quinn Cook hit a three, followed by a Jahlil Okafor deuce before a minute had expired, for a 15 point lead.
The visitors scored on each of their first seven possessions after the break, 8 of their first nine. So, with 13:13 to go, the Blue Devils advantage was 49-25.
* * * * *
Were there moments when the game might have turned in a different direction?
Maybe. Possibly. Uh, probably not.
Both teams came out nervous. Twice early, Duke drove the lane, had a wide open layup in front of them, and passed the ball out. The Cards also seemed unsteady, though they led 3-0, then 8-4 after two WB FTs and Terry Rozier three.
Soon thereafter came a couple of key moments that, had things gone another way, coulda woulda, shoulda changed the course of the game. Maybe.
Chris Jones committed his second foul with 11:08 on the clock, forcing him to sit for the rest of the half.
Blackshear fashioned the boldest move of his career, blasting through the lane for a chocolate thunder dunk, and a 12-9 lead at 8:45. Don’t bother knockin’, the Yum! was rockin’.
That is, until Duke reserve Matt Jones hit the mute button with a corner trey just :15 seconds later.
The Cardinals’ shooting woes did them in from then on. Duke inexorably pulled away for the W.
* * * * *
In the first half, U of L grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. But was only able to tally 2 second chance points. While the visitors scored 7 on only three offensive boards.
The Cards grabbed 8 more offensive rebounds in the second half, converting them into 8 second chance points. While Duke got but a couple offensive rebounds and no 2d chance scores. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter.
Silent L had his best rebounding game ever as a Cardinal. He was relentless, grabbing 14 rebounds.2
The only numbers that really matter are the shooting percentages.
After going 7/31 in the opening stanza, Louisville went a mediocre 11/30 after the break. The Cardinals had 18 more FG attempts than Duke, which was 21/43 for the game.
* * * * *
Louisville never stopped competing.
Nanu and Gill looked more sure of themselves on the court.
The Boogie Man was back in the house. So too, Milt Wagner.
The throw back unis are righteous. I’d love to see the Cards wear them the rest of the year at home, but I doubt it will happen.
Grif honored Denny Crum with his halftime comments.3
The season is far from over. The. Sky. Is. Not. Falling.
Road games at Pitt, BC, Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State are eminently winnable. A W in Charlottesville is doubtful, but certainly not beyond comprehension.
Home battles with Pitt, Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame and Miami are eminently winnable. While a visit from UVa in the regular season finale is a doubtful W, it is certainly not beyond comprehension.
— Seedy K