Where there shall be no joking about a certain emerging U of L Cardinal’s ethnicity. No reference to last year’s Triple Crown winner. No analogy to Pyramids in the Paint. No hoops hieroglyphics.
No joking here, unlike The Rick, who, during his post game radio show after the Cardinals gutty 75-71 W over the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech, proved he knows more about the Play Book than the Good Book.
Yo, Coach, it wasn’t the Egyptians forced to wander the desert, but, uh, vice versa. Anyway, that’s another discussion for another time.
Like I said, welcome to the Spin Zone.
Anas Mahmoud, spinning from the right block across the lane for a nifty floating hook shot, southpaw from the Brooklyn side.
Anas Mahmoud, spinning from the left block across the lane for a nifty floating hook with his stronger hand.
Anas Mahmoud, spinning from the right block, feigning a full traverse of the paint, stopping, switching the ball back from his left hand to his right, for a deft little five foot push floater.
Anas Mahmoud, grabbing the eminently loseable tilt by the short and curlies, thus spinning into the hearts of U of L Cardinal fans hither and yon.
Hyperbole ensued. Not only from The Rick. The Professor texted me after the W, “Anas Mahmoud is my favorite Cardinal ever.”
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It’s not like we haven’t been awaiting the kind of performance Mahmoud put on display in Atlanta. Here’s what I wrote about him on October 20, 2014, when posting about U of L’s first public scrimmage before last season, his first in the Red & Black.
Remember this name: Anas Mahmoud.
For me, he was far and away the most impressive of the new Cardinals.
Yes he’s underweight for a seven footer. Spindly would be an apt description.
But he runs the court. He’s most coordinated. More important, his game is instinctual. He knows where he needs to be, where the ball needs to go, and he gets it there without it lingering in his paws. He’s got serious hops. Great timing around the hoop. And plays with an eerie presence. He’s impassive, like those McCray brothers.
Though I might have to chew these words at a later date, I’ll take a stand.
He reminds me of young Pervis Ellison.
Which is to say, Mahmoud’s upside is H.U.G.E.
He also has a worldly air about him. He traveled in Europe a lot on Egypt’s youth squad. Thus, he says, “there’s been no culture shock here in Louisville.”
He loves the family atmosphere of the team and the city.
He’s just learning how good he might be, even speaking of his desire to play in “the league.”
“I didn’t realize my talent until I moved to Orlando last year. I realized I had skills.”
He says the player whose game he’d most like to emulate is Kevin Love.
Loved, loved, loved what I saw on the court Sunday afternoon from Anas Mahmoud.
So too did Coach Rick Pitino. Mahmoud was the first Card he talked about at the post game press conference.
“I was a little taken aback, and a little surprised by the big Egyptian. He’s getting a little bit better every day, but he’ never played as well as he did tonight.
“So I was really glad to see that.”
Since the coach didn’t mention another player before the Q & A portion of his presser, I assume he may be more excited about Mahmoud than he even let on.
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So, after Mahmoud’s coming out party, his 15 point, 4 rebound, 2 assist, 1 block, no turnover decimation of GT, the Cardinals are now double your pleasure, double your fun in the pivot.
Chinanu Onuaku brought it again, for his, ho hum, sixth double double in a row. Twelve points, 11 rebounds. Along with 4 assists, a block and a steal.
Wasn’t it just a year ago, when Louisville got nothing — I mean, nuttin’ honey — from the bigs? Why yes, yes it was.
And, when Tech big Nick Jacobs used his bulk to manhandle still spindly Mahmoud on two consecutive possessions, to counter U of L’s early 2d half surge for a 47-41 advantage, Rick Pitino was forced to call a timeout.
After which Onuaku and Mahmoud doubled bulky Jacobs every time he touched the ball, shutting him down, holding him to just one more deuce. The only other negative ramification of that game changing strategy was a Marcus Georges-Hunt triple, when he was left open in the weakside corner, for a 60-59 Yellow Jacket lead at 6:43.
That was the home team’s last lead of the game. The advantage lasted but :14 seconds, when the Cards grabbed it for good on a Trey Lewis jumper.
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So, yeah, Louisville got it done in the middle.
Plus Louisville got it done when Pitino made a key strategic move.
Which brings us to Damion Lee.
Who, one guy’s opinion, played his best game as a Cardinal.
In the contest’s first five minutes, when the Cards led 12-5, Lee had tallied 8. A threeball on U of L’s second possession, a floating deuce on their fifth possession and a +1 for the final three of Louisville’s first dozen points.
Then there was his critical stop and pop longball on a fastbreak to give Louisville a 68-65 lead at the 3:28 mark.
Lee also did it at the defensive end.
On the ensuing Tech possession after that trey, he almost stole the ball twice. We’ve come to love those deflections, right?
Then he did pilfer the rock with :35 to go, and the Cards hanging on by two wafer thin points. Which led to two FTs by Quentin Snider, and some measure of security with a four point lead.
17 points. Three rebounds. Two assists and that boffo steal. In 38 minutes of relentless play at both ends.
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Louisville was, again, merely mediocre at the free throw line, hitting but 15 of 25 attempts.
Two of those misses, Q’s ofer with the game won and but seconds to play, really didn’t matter.
Buuuuuuuuut . . . when it did matter, U of L made six in a row (and 7 of 8). Anas drained two at 1:01 for a 71-69 lead. Q canned those two mentioned above after Lee’s steal. Then Donovan Mitchell netted two at :16 to push the advantage back to four.
That steadiness overcame some previous charity stripe woes, when U of L missed the front end of two 1+1s, Mahmoud missed two coming out of the second media timeout after the half and Louisville down three, and Lewis was errant on a +1 that hurt at the time, when the score was knotted at 57 all.
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It was a tale of two halves.
Despite its early spurt, Louisville missed 11 of its last 13 FG attempts before the break, and gave up an 0-7 run to end the first, to be down that many. They had been outrebounded, outshot from the field, were -6 from the stripe, were -18 points off the bench, -3 fastbreak points, -8 points off turnovers, and hadn’t blocked a shot but had three tossed aside by the home team.
Don’t know how many shots the Cards missed underneath? More than a couple. Frustrating.
Getting in touch with their inner Peyton Manning, shilling for an insurance company — “Epic comeback starts right here.” — the Cards reversed course, tallying the first 7 points after the break to tie the score at 39. But soon enough, Tech spurted back out to a five point lead again. Game on.
Louisville was up to the task. The Red & Black made 15 of its 25 FG attempts in the second stanza. They turned it over only once, while forcing 7 by Tech.
I’m not sure how many times, but it was surely several, that U of L played shutdown D for 28, 30 seconds, but Tech managed to score right at the shot clock. But that patience turned on the Yellow Jackets, as U of L fashioned a couple of key shot clock violations.
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Donovan Mitchell continued his accelerated maturation process.
11 points, including a major three. He drained those two FTs near the end to seal the W.
Trey Lewis also scored in double figures with a dozen, displaying a steady hand at the helm, during crunch time.
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Of course, announcers, Mike Couzens, doing his second U of L game in a row, and color man, an excellent Chris Spatolo, felt compelled to make mention of Chinanu Onuaku’s old school FT style.
Yet, I thought it cute, after CO netted two for 23-20 lead, when Spatolo said, “He gets a letter in H*O*R*S*E every time he makes one.”
I love when U of L wears red unis on the road, the way Naismithius, the Greek God of Hoops, meant for it to be.
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Bottom line: Big W.
Sure, the meat of the league slate, the big names with glossy resumés, is yet to come. Including a trap game this week in Blacksburg. But that W yesterday in a back and forth battle on the road in Not So Hot ‘Lanta is not to be discounted.
If U of L gets anything as the season progresses from still to emerge Deng Adel, who played less nervous in his short stint against Tech, and Ray Spalding, who like Mahmoud did yesterday will be a beast when he sheds his cocoon, watch out.
If Mangok Mathiang, when he returns from his injury, is able to regain any of his early season toughness . . . well . . . the future’s so bright, you might want to order a pair of those Bill Walton approved Maui Jim shades.
— Seedy K