As Dick Vitale, who was in the house and shall be again Saturday, would say, “Scintillating! Sensational!”
After a performance before intermission that must be described as desultory, U of L, down 31-42, came out of halftime with the eye of the tiger.
Montrezl Harrell snared a missed Irish trey. Chinanu Onuaku grabbed an offensive board after a Terry Rozier miss. Trez got the second chance deuce in close. 33-42. After another ND misfire, TR tallied two. 35-42.
Rozier followed that with a swipe at midcourt, firing it ahead for a Wayne Blackshear flush. 37-42. After another errant shot by the visitors, Nanu scored on a nifty assist from TR. 39-42.
Timeout Mike Brey.
Coming out of the break, Jerian Grant committed his second giveaway of the half. Quentin Snider swished a lovely trey from the corner.
42 all. Game on!
During the ensuing media timeout, with the score still knotted, and the Yum! buzzin’, I jotted down this query: “Most important segment of the season?”
The answer, alas, is “No.”
The Irish didn’t score their first field goal of the second stanza until the clock read 10:34. Yet, that putback by the burr in the Cards’ sneakers Bonzie Colson, gave ND the lead, 47-46. They never trailed again.
Notre Dame hit its final seven shots of the game, also draining its last four FTs.
If Louisville motored through the beginning of the second half like a high end Beemer, the Cardinals fell apart at the end like a Yugo, missing its last five shots and generally playing with all the acumen of 4th graders at St. Polycarp.
Every time Louisville surged, they ran out of gas. In the first half, after surrendering 10 in a row, L spurted for 1:39, a 7 nil run that cut the deficit to 25-26. Then needed a pit stop, after the Irish trumped it, scoring 8 in a row.
The Cardinals shot better than normal early, 48% before intermission. But gave it away 9 times in the opening half, and allowed 58% marksmanship by ND. Jerian Grant even scored on an implausible last second fadeaway in Notre Dame’s version of the Sosa play.
So, despite that nifty interlude describe above, the second half mirrored the first.
The final margin was a dozen. As we are wont to say of such affairs, it wasn’t that close.
* * * * *
Louisville’s defense yet again look ragged, out of sync and less than stellar.
It is dumbfounding to me that it’s still, last night’s meltdown included, ranked as the 6th most efficient in the land.
The visitors beat U of L down court several teams, when the press broke down at the back end. And, no, Trez, it wasn’t just your fellow bigs. Notre Dame drove the lane seemingly at will against minimal outside pressure the Cards’ backcourt. Weakside help was inefficient, late, woeful.
With the ball, seasoned Notre Dame consistently created mismatches, allowing them to run their sets as they desired. And, the Irish are the second best shooting squad in the country.
So, Louisville’s defensive woes were manifest. That felony was compounded by some truly dreadful shot-taking decisions.
* * * * *
Several weeks back, I wrote down an observation that I’d been meaning to share. As such things happen, it got lost in the clutter on my desk.
It came to me last night.
This Cardinal team, while far from god awful if not close to being a contenda, lacks a personality.
Neither Harrell nor Blackshear, for different reasons, are able to lead, though they are the candidates to do so.
Rozier, in his zeal, one would assume, to bolster his NBA prospects, hasn’t grabbed the mantle. Plus he never feeds the open man on a fast break. Midway through the second half last night, U of L had a classic 3 on 1 situation, TR with the ball in the middle, the side lanes filled. He, of course, kept it himself, and got fouled.
Terry, throw the damn ball.
The youngsters, while full of promise, haven’t transcended their inexperience.
The team is without a player or penchant to rally around.
* * * * *
There’s nothing in the numbers of any real significance.
Okay, there is the disparity in bench points. A deuce by Anas Mahmoud were the only by a Cardinal. While the Irish got 21 off the pine, 17 of them by Bonzai Bonzie.
Notre Dame is just a better basketball team. Last night it beat an iffy Top 25 squad on the road in March. A testament to its tenacity, since it really didn’t play all that well.
* * * * *
#2 Virginia comes calling Saturday in the regular season finale.
This is one where the scoring numbers might not beat the Fahrenheit.
— Seedy K