If Louisville’s successes this season hinge on how hard the team plays defense, and I fall in line with The Rick, and most everybody else who has observed the Cards flaky, often non existent, on again off again offensive prowess, agreeing that it’s stops über alles.
If that be the case, then it’s Man Up!
Mano a mano.
English translation: Man to man, Denny Crum style.
Or, as Jim Larranaga would call it: Manslaughter on man. (More on that in a moment.)
The Cards’s shifting, matching, horizontal hyperboloid zone, so effective in the last half decade, hasn’t been very effective this campaign. Especially so yesterday against NIT quality Miami, whom they’d already handily conquered in Coral Gables, 63-55.
Playing man, the team seemed more steady, knowing there was a specific guy to check, and when to pass him off to a teammate and assume that guy’s assignment. Especially for the freshman, like Chinanu Onuaku and out-of-the-doghouse, now a Louisville Man, Shaqquan Aaron.
With it, the Cards deflections were up, for which The Rick was most grateful, and buying the brew.
Without it, Louisville loses its fourth in the last five.
* * * * *
I went to the replay booth this morning to watch the most controversial moment of the tilt, which came with 1:49 left in the opening stanza.1
Montrezl Harrell grabbed an offensive board, and, facing the endline, slightly falling backward, hurled the rock into the noggin of Hurricane Tonye Jekiri. It was forehead bullseye, a hit which would make Chris Kyle proud.
After viewing the usual 178 ESPN replays, I am of the opinion that Silent L had no malice aforethought. It appeared instinctual.
But where did the reaction come from? I’m not sure what he was thinking? (Uh, Seedy, didn’t you just opine it was instinctual, which would mean he wasn’t thinking? Uh, yeah, sorry.)
He was still in balance and the ball was secure in his hands. It didn’t appear he was in imminent danger of losing control.
Perspective: Twenty seconds earlier, during the same possession, Trez was mugged during a triple team under the glass, hemmed in by the out of bounds line and a trio of clawing ‘Canes. At which moment, he did what every basketball player ever has done. He threw it off a ‘Cane’s leg, so it went out of play for a Cardinal throw in.
The technical term for such scenarios is “the zebras are letting them play.”
Was Silent L frustrated, when he went face on Jekiri? I dunno.
It was an odd reaction to the situation. Probably worthy of the technical that was called.2 It seemed an absolutely inexplicable play on his part.
What it certainly has done is ratchet up the enmity between these schools, in what has certainly been a series without a hint previously of rivalry. Should the Cards and Canes meet up in the ACC tourney, I’m now suggesting body armor.
* * * * *
Against Syracuse, U of L tallied on 9 of its first 12 possessions. And lost.
Against Miami, the Cards scored on only 3 of its first ten offensive chances, which not ready for the tip off start included a turnover, a missed dunk, a missed three, a forced (and missed) J, and a missed lay up. (The team’s first assist came with 1:29 to play before intermission.) And they won.
Which victory was fostered by Louisville’s pestering defense, mentioned above and which henceforth I shall refer to as manslaughter D. At least until I forget to do so, or it doesn’t apply, whichever comes first.
Also key, a boffo beginning to the second half, during which interlude, U of L scored on its first five possessions. A steal and layin by Chris Jones. A CJ trey, on a Wayne Blackshear assist. Followed by a WB threeball of his own.
Then, my favorite sequence of the game, a steal by Silent L, three offensive rebounds and a Harrell long ball. Timeout Miami. Then a Blackshear charity toss, pulling the Cards back into the contest at 31-32.
The spurt also engaged the surprisingly large and hearty contingent of fans, who braved the slush and made it to the Yum!.3
Louisville’s full opening salvo after intermission was a 17-3 run for a 36-32 lead.
Another key interlude — Duh oh!!!!! — was the final 1:37. The good guys outscored the visitors by five for the W by a deuce. Trez went nothing but net x 2 at the line with :35.6 on the clock for the lead. Meanwhile that — all together now — manslaughter D forced a couple of Hurricane turnovers and that missed trey.
* * * * *
It seems to me there were two statistical indicators for the W.
The Cards were +10 on the boards in the second half, especially early on, when the bigs were hell bent to windex every miss at either end.
Coming into the game, Miami had converted the most FTs of any team during league play, hitting 75% at the line. Despite playing manslaughter D most of the game, Louisville only committed 13 fouls. The visitors thus shot but 7 FTs, hitting five.
Louisville was 12/19. The disparity seemed reasonable, not homer inspired. Though my guess is a grumpy Jim Larranaga was grumbling about that too after the final buzzer.
* * * * *
Okay, I did watch a bit more of the replay this morning, a few minutes of action besides that Harrell face job.
At one point, Doris Burke referred to U of L’s play as “selfish.” Perceptive.
Terry Rozier was 3/15 from the field on the day, many (most?) ill advised shots. He didn’t finish at the rim. He didn’t hustle down court on a breakaway, losing possession, a replay of a Syracuse moment.
At one point he forced the ball to the rim, ignoring open teammates, and, play by play guy Tom Hart talking: “threw one up,” which Rozier missed. Get it? “Threw up.” It’s a double entendre.
Credit where it’s due: Of all those lauded deflections The Rick was trumpeting, TR had the biggest, leading to the possession for Harrell’s go ahead charity tosses.
* * * * *
Chris Jones play reminds me of Terrence Williams.
You never know what you’re going to get. Whether it’s knuckleheaded decisions, stopping the flow of the offense with excessive dribbling, or that incredible offensive board he secured down the stretch yesterday. Or an off balance three. Or fall-away deuce.
Buuuuuuuuuut, like T-Will, my least favorite Cardinal ever, Jones has to be in the game when it matters. Because he can take over, make big shots, make big defensive plays, make his FTs. (I don’t mean to infer I dislike Jones as I did Williams.)
Yesterday, in his return from purgatory, CJ scored 17, with five boards and 2 steals. But only two assists.
Harrell: 21 points. 14 rebounds, 6 offensive. 3 blocks. 3 steals. And a scalp for his Totem Pole of Triumph.
Blackshear was solid. Big deflection late. Big trey during the early second half catch up. Huge deuce with 1:18 on the clock to pull the Cards within one at 52-53.
Nanu was fierce on the boards with 8, five offensive.
* * * * *
Quick turnaround. Louisville visits Georgia Tech for Big Monday
Be wary, Cards, there’s black ice on the byways.
— Seedy K