This one ended happily for L1C4 Nation — already giddy after the afternoon’s gridiron win over Kentucky — with a Trey Lewis three, capping a 77-57 Louisville W.
Such sublime finishes haven’t always been the denouement of similar plotlines through the years.
U of L comes out rocky in an early season road game, against a lesser, but well coached foe. The squads go back and forth. The Cards seem off their feed. The other guys drain some long balls, catch a break here and there on loose balls. Key Cards commit stupid fouls, finding themselves on the bench for long stretches.
Louisville pulls away a bit. Then the other guys come back, take the lead.
As has too oft been the tale at such junctures, especially when Louisville is young and/or inexperience or both, the Cardinals never quite get their act together. The games end with fewer U of L points on the scoreboard than the other guys.
Which is how this game felt it might play out at the 16:10 mark of the 2d stanza, when a Miles Reynold’s trey pushed the Billikens ahead by a point, 34-33, after they had trailed by five late in the opening half, and by 3 at the break.
Ah, but this time, this still developing band of Cardinals did the tighten up. Even though starting center Chinanu Onuaku had just committed his fourth foul, one that can only be described as S.T.U.P.I.D.. Even though scoring ace Damion Lewis, was also in danger of disqualification which eventually came about, had yet to tally.
Instead of folding, here’s what the black t-shirted Cardinals wrapped around the next four Saint Louis points.
An Anas Mahmoud slither and spin to the bucket. +1. A Lewis steal, leading to a Quentin Snider bunny. Lee’s first deuce, a short jumper in the paint, followed by enough D to force a shot clock violation. Two Lewis FTs. A Lewis steal. A Lewis layup. A Mahmoud steal, leading to a fast break layin by Lee.
Two FTs by Q at the 10:52 mark. Over that 5:18 span, U of L outscored Saint Louis, 18-4.
The Billikens were measured. There would not be a comeback.
* * * * *
There were times when Louisville looked disheveled on defense. Saint Louis was 8/16 from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Where they stood without any appreciable opposition.
But, here’s the rub.
For the first time this year, The Rick trotted out that hybrid, switching, part man to man, part zone, part voodoo defense that’s been a staple of Louisville’s success over the last few seasons.
Try that I might, I cannot figure out exactly how it works, nor understand when a defender follows a player through, or when he leaves him alone and stays in space? I am not alone. There are plenty of opposing coaches and teams that haven’t found the keys either.
So, I was not disheartened in the least by U of L’s herky jerky performance.
The defensive lapses are attributable to the acclimation period of all the newcomers, working their way toward familiarity with this defense. Which system shall remain nameless unless I — or you, my loyal readers — can come up with an appropriate, pithy name for it.
The offensive lapses are attributable to Onuaku’s and Lee’s foul trouble. Plus, first game away from the Yum! jitters. A higher quality foe than the nonentities that have been visiting town for a pay check and lashing.
But with this Cardinal gang, arguably top to bottom as deep a Cardinal squad as any ever, there’s a better chance than not that somebody or two is going to fill the slack.
Like Mangok Mathiang, who came up with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal.
Or Trey Lewis, whose line read 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
Q netted 10, with four assists. And Lee, who love love loves to score, also eked out 10, before being DQed.
* * * * *
The Cards hit 70% from the field after the break, and were 26/49 (53%) for the game.
They finally were in championship form at the line, canning 20 of 25 charity tosses. 80%. You know how I love that.
Because the Billikens, like Hartford before them, ceded any claim to the backboards, U of L prevailed 36-14.
* * * * *
Next up, a real marker of a tilt.
Sparty in East Lansing.
— Seedy K