Tonight’s victim Utah Valley is ranked #323 (Of 351 DI hoops participants), and is the last meringue the Cardinals shall gorge before the real season begins on Saturday in Lexington.
The Cards continue to impress, as much as they can against what has been unarguably the most pathetic schedule played by any legit national contenda.
The question remains, despite the tenuous but arguably persuasive logic that this young team needed more scrimmage-like seasoning than normal, will they be ready for Kentucky in Rupp? And improving Wake Forest in the ACC season opener? And beyond?.
Or, would they have been better served with a bit more competition?
We’ll soon enough find out. Was U of L’s recent grande bouffe of pastries a healthy enough diet, more beneficial than, say, Vandy’s trip to Purdue, or Iowa State’s test at Cincy, or California’s visit in Charlottesville?
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Because of last night’s late tip, and the reality that at my age, playing back to backs is not doctor recommended, and the thought of sitting until witching hour through another cakewalk then battling my way through bridge construction to get home, I watched from the comfort of my own Ekornes, with easy access to a legit broadband connection, my cupboard, fridge and facilities.
Which gave me a closer perspective, frankly, than my seat in the auxiliary press area at the Yum! (Not that I’m complaining. I’m honored that I have been afforded media access through the years, considering it one of life’s great privileges, not a right.)
So, I was able to confirm that Chinanu Onuaku is playing with fire and focus. Despite his ever present foul trouble, which could indeed sabotage U of L’s chances against the Cats, he was relentless when going for rebounds. Nine of which he snared, often out of the clutches of either friend or foe. He also had five blocks, and a couple of assists to enhance his stat line. Which included 10 points scored, spotlighted by a relatively glossy 4/6 at the line.1
CO also won the Rick Pitino MVP Award (a unique U of L assessment that takes in consideration the little things that matter, other than points), with a +29.
Ray Spalding also had nine rebounds, and was second in MVP tallies at +23. The guy has hands like Jerry Rice, footwork like James Brown and is far and away the best pass deflector on the squad. As I reiterated, the other day to Tony Cruise at the Western Ky game, “I loooooooove Ray Spalding.”
Frontcourt homie Jaylen Johnson played his best game as a Cardinal. Ten points, five boards, four offensive. And he was, more important, always woikin’. He made some defensive mistakes, but kept on keepin’ on. And he garnered the third best MVP rating for the game with a +15.
Even Matz Stockman, in 7 legit minutes, appeared moderately useful. Though, absent some serious foul hassle for others, and perhaps the continued absence of Anas Mahmoud, I doubt we will see the Norwegian off the bench in Rupp.
So, yeah, the frontcourt looked fearsome. Buuuuuuuuut, it might have been more meaningful had they been contesting real jumping kangaroos, instead of those from Missouri.
Show me Saturday, Cardinal bigs, that you’re the real deal.
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When I’m wrong, I hope I’m always able to admit it.
I was wrong about Trey Lewis.
At some point early on, perhaps after the team’s doleful performances in the two exhibitions, I opined here that Lewis probably would provide some maturity, stability and leadership. But that he wouldn’t be much of a factor on the court.
Like I said, I was wrong.
There are still times when he, and fellow grad transfer Damion Lee, still make what I term “mid major plays.” But those gaffes are occurring less with each game. And he and Lee have that Russ Smith scorer’s mentality, which is oh so beneficial to season long success.
Louisville remains disturbingly susceptible to unmolested corner treys. Lewis, and especially Lee, are more often than one would hope, the culprits committing the defensive lapses.
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Once again, Louisville took awhile to get started after the half.
UMKC scored the first six points after Microphone Joey’s halftime extravaganza.
Again, as against the Hilltoppers, Louisville tightened up, stopped the bleeding, put the hammer down and sped ahead, pedal to the metal. (To mix way too many metaphors. My 9th grade English guru Miss. Walston is spinning in her grave.)
Can they so easily recover from such fallow times against the big boys? Will they be able to simply pull a styptic pencil from the floor and stop the flow from a nick on the noggin’? Or will they have to head to the ER for tourniquet and triage?
Last night, U of L ran off 7 to counterbalance that early second half surge by the visitors. An Onuaku FT, Spalding deuce, Onuaku block, forced shot clock violation, Quentin Snider driving lay up and Lee deuce put the Kangaroos back in their cages. The visitors eventually wilted, missing their last ten FG attempts.
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The Cardinals were 15/25 at the line. You know how I like that. And it wasn’t just stalwarts Lee and Lewis accepting the charity.
The Cards ended up +5 on the boards, after being down one at the break.
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Deng Adel returned to the hardwood for 11 minutes of action.
He continued to play tentaively, as he did before the leg injury. Makes sense. He says his legs were “heavy.” Makes sense.
If his game comes close to matching the accolades he gets from his coach and teammates, U of L will indeed be an 11 headed beast, the kind that you might meet at that bar in the new “Star Wars.” If Matz becomes a contributor, make it an even dozen for foes to contend with.
But, before we begin to find out for real, to learn if this team is the deal, there’s somebody to play called Utah Valley, in town for the check, a visit to the bat factory and a trip down U of L’s gullet.
— Seedy K