In the first half, the Cardinals overcame a horrendous effort early on the defensive boards, surrendering 11 offensive rebounds, foul trouble of consequence to five key contributors, a quirky patchwork lineup and general road jitters to fashion a 14 point advantage (27-13) with seven and a half minutes to play before intermission.
That measure dwindled to a deuce with less than a minute of action left before respite. Before Quentin Snider, playing his career game, generated a bit of ballast with the most important shot of the tilt, a late trey, providing U of L with its five point lead at halftime.
Having regenerated a significant double digit advantage,71-55, with three and a half minutes left before the buzzer, it appeared that Louisville’s ongoing improvement, which appears more inevitable with each adventure, might have accelerated.
Then conference road game heebie-jeebies, the first turnovers of the second stanza, several mistakes in judgement by Trey Lewis, lax D, some boffo marksmanship by the Wolfpack, and unsteadiness in trying to milk the clock, and, whatdaya know, U of L was facing the real possibility of OT, up just three with :07.5 to play and State’s ball out of bounds in its frontcourt.
But, the errant previous possession call was reversed on review, Chinanu Onuaku got the inbound pass to Damion Lee, who atoned for his double miss at the line seconds before, by netting both charity tosses for the final margin.
So, yeah, it might have been more impressive.
But, in the long run, this had to hang on to secure it W in its first league road battle of the campaign is arguably more advantageous for this Cardinal edition, which is starting to develop legit designs on a top four seed line in the Dance.
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Upon reflection, this was a most curious tilt.
Damion Lee wanted to play with a long sleeve shirt under his jersey, you know, Briahanna Jackson style. But was ordered by a zebra to remove it.
The stands, in a big league game on Tobacco Road — purportedly basketball country — were eerily empty at tip off and throughout.
The Cardinals surrendered 5 offensive boards before the first media timeout, and 7 more in the opening half.
Trey Lewis, who went scoreless and continues to suffer an alarming mid-major addiction to dribbling, Damion Lee, Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, who it appears won’t be showing his stuff until his sophomore season, and Ray Spalding all got in foul trouble before the half. The Cards were whistled for 13 fouls before the break, against only five for the Wolfpack.
Though the disparity appeared reasonable, given that U of L was really aggressive without the ball. Even after the epidemic of fouls. At the break, State was 11/18 at the line, U of L but 3/4.
Rick Pitino stole some clock late in the first half, with a lineup that included Anas Mahmoud, who continues to participate passively, Deng Adel, Jaylen Johnson, who is finding his mojo, Q and Mr. Lee Mr. Lee.
Ray Spalding continues to display some serious panache. Midway through the first half, the ball was pinballing around between players sprawled about at midcourt, when Spalding snatched it like a Venus Fly Trap and took it to the hoop for a 16-13 lead. He canned two nifty deuces in a key 7-1 interlude, when the Cards improved their margin from 53-49 to 60-50. He finished with 12 points on 6/8 shooting. But only 2 boards.
NC State, as all of the foes from now on, keyed on Damion Lee. To his credit, he did not revert to a default characteristic, which is forcing the issue to add to his personal point total. He allowed, as it is said, the game to come to him. He hustled on D, and tallied 13.
The Rick switched defenses throughout, confusing the Wolfpack. Most notably, coming out in a tight, straight man to man after a State timeout immediately following that run to 60-50.
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Such is the depth of this Cardinal squad, a roster full with varying and unique talents, one has to believe that at least one or another Card will come through on a given night, even when teammates are struggling.
Hello, Quentin Snider, come on down, take a bow.
Not in the starting lineup, Q doubled down with his effort. He grabbed the game by the short and curlies and made it his. 21 points on 7/11 shooting, 4/6 from beyond the arc. Two assists, two steals and only one turnover.
The Cards got 37 points off the pine.
Onuaku has turned on the light, beginning to display the game that has the Chad Fords of the world projecting him as a first round NBA pick. 12 points, 14 caroms, a block and a steal in 32 minutes of action. While committing only one foul.
Donovan Mitchell scored only three points, but his four assists were huge. One guy’s opinion — mine — this is going to be his team come next season.
Despite an appreciation for his own jumpshooting, which appears ill informed, Jaylen Johnson continues to develop into a staunch and steady contributor underneath. 8 points. 7 rebounds.
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Two things about the Wolfpack:
Cat Barber is the first right handed guard I can recall, who doesn’t like to go to his right. He did it once during State’s run at the end. The rest of the evening, U of L gave him a lane to the bucket in that direction, yet he continually pushed the ball into defensive pressure to his left.
Rosy cheeked, rosy lipped Maverick Rowan can drain the long ball. His stroke is as sweet as his baby face. He was 4/8 from Treyville.
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Louisville’s -3 on the boards underscores how much Mangok Mathiang is missed.
Some of Trey Lewis’s propensities, i.e. bad habits, continue to vex. At least, for me. In the first half, he went to the bench for foul trouble with Louisville +1. A few minutes later, with Q running the show, and Mitchell dealing dimes, the Card lead grew to 14. During State’s late run, TL committed a key turnover and was the culprit for a shot clock violation.
He dribbles too much.
But it isn’t fatal. Hopefully. Coming from Cleveland State, he has almost as much to learn about winning at this echelon as the rookies. He, they, it appears, shall continue to climb to their considerable upside. Hopefully.
Next Up: Clemson on Sunday. Followed by a couple of 9:00 pm home tests against surprising Pittsburgh and Florida State.
— Seedy K