There was, at least for me personally, an exclamation point to U of L’s disappointing performance against Virginia, a display by the home team which was even more dispiriting than the fact of the 47-63 loss.
I had a parking ticket nestled between the wiper blade and windshield of my car after the game. You’d think those meter watchers would have had something better to do on such a lovely day, that they might have been a bit more understanding to disheartened Cardinal fans.
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Louisville was never in this game. It was an L from the opening tip.
UVa, confident after scoring 18 points in the final 1:19 of its W over Wake Forest earlier in the week, was in charge from the start.
Anthony Gill hit an open jumper 21 seconds in, and the Cavaliers not only never relinquished the lead, they were never threatened. Trey Lewis missed a three, the Cards rebounded, but Damion Lee coughed it up.
Gill slammed one home at the other end. 0-4, Virginia.
A Quentin Snider triple, then lay up, pulled U of L within two, 5-7, at at 15:59. Isaiah Wilkins answered immediately for the visitors. The rout was on.
Louisville didn’t score again for 7:34, when Deng Adel netted a three. The Cardinals’ drought continued for another four minutes before their next marker.
The Cards scored 14 points in the opening half, were down 15 at the break, having committed 13 turnovers. They were 4/19 from the field, while UVa had netted 13 FGs in 23 attempts against Louisville’s confused, porous defense.
Louisville never threatened, before the break or after.
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Given my more than half century history with the Cards, and my obsession with U of L hoops, I am of course reminded of another such game from yesteryear.
In January ’83, the McCray Brothers/ Milt Wagner/ Lancaster Gordon/ Charles Jones edition of the Cardinals — the team that beat UK in the Dream Game, before falling to Phi Slama Jama in the national semis — ventured to Cameron Indoor. Where, with dispatch by 15, they schooled Duke, whose talented but young and inexperienced squad included Tommy Amaker and Danny Ferry and Jay Bilas, the same contingent, which, a couple seasons later, were #1 in the land before losing again to U of L in the national title game.
Anyway, that’s what happened yesterday. U of L, inexperienced, led by a couple of done&ones not used to upper echelon competition, were schooled by a gang who knows how to play their game. Virginia is not only well coached, but they are mature and very experienced. The Wahoos start two fifth year seniors, a junior, a third year sophomore and a second year freshman.
They play like they’ve been here before. Which they have. They play like a team that has learned from its lessons. Which they have.
The Cavaliers weren’t rattled a bit by the fervent crowd, which, following orders, was dressed in white as the powers that be ordered them to do. While U of L, attempting to play Rick Pitino’s complicated hybrid defense, was ever rattled.
My point: If this talented group of Cardinal underclassmen stay together for their careers, learn from games like yesterday’s decimation, they will morph from those being schooled into those dictating the lesson plan.
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Real freshman Deng Adel was indeed the silver lining for U of L, as The Rick acknowledged.
I would also offer Ray Spalding, a fellow rookie.
A minute after entering the game in the first half, Adel confidently drained a three. He played with passion, and previously unseen confidence after a season of nervous performances, surrounding an injury.
He finished with a dozen points on 5/9 shooting, while grabbing 5 boards.
Spalding also tallied twelve on 5/10 shooting, while snaring 7 rebounds.
The Trinity grad displayed just how special he can be on an offensive possession when Louisville was down — Ouch! — 18-41. Donovan Mitchell missed a jumper, but Spalding was there on the left side for a tip in. But, too strong, it missed long. Yet Spalding was there for a follow of his own miss . . . from the other side of the rim.
That pair of rookies was 10/19 from the field. The rest of the Cards were 6/30.
Louisville turned it over twice more (18) than it put the rock through the hoop (16).
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The major reality check is this.
Done&ones are NOT the answer in the long run.
Louisville needed the likes of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis this year, and won the Lottery. They were a necessity for this team to be relevant, and have done the best they can. But, there’s a reason they were mid-majors. Understand, their presence is the equivalent of hitting a scratch off at Thornton’s, not jackpotting a ten figure Powerball.
In his post-game press conference, a calmer and more forthcoming Pitino than might have been expected after such a beatdown, essentially said Lewis has to stop dribbling too much. What he actually said was something to the effect, “Trey will learn a lot from this game.”
Lee was most disappointing. He was ofer the opening half. 0/2 from the field, both from long range. Only 1 rebound. Two turnovers.
He didn’t hit a field goal until 9:52 was left to pull Louisville within — ahem — 21 at 26-47.
His six points were — in the classic sense of the term — garbage.
He turned it over a couple more times after intermission, and, instead of hunkering down when his shot wasn’t falling (when he could get one off), he essentially spit out the bit.
(And I, for one, have had plenty enough with his posing after making a three. Get back on D, son. We know you can shoot it . . . most of the time.)
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Pitino wasn’t just prevaricating after the game, when he mentioned that he saw such a bad performance coming.
In his press conference Friday, the day before the game, he mentioned as how he wouldn’t put too much store in U of L’s glossy record to that point. Louisville, despite what the computers say, hasn’t been playing very good D all season. That against Virginia Tech was “the worst of the year.”
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The immediate good news: Short turnaround.
The immediate bad news: North Carolina, the nation’s best team, arrives for Big Monday.
The long term good news: The young, inexperienced Cardinals can and should learn more from yesterday’s setback than all those holiday pastiies it consumed. As former coach Mike Polio said to me at the half yesterday, “This ain’t no Hofstra or Cleveland State.”
U of L has a lot of raw talent, with significant upside, and a good attitude. If this gang stays together and stays the course, success shall come.
The long term bad news: It’s a long and winding road, full of more craters to be circumvented than the increasingly pot holed streets of our town.
— Seedy K