Nor, for that matter, for most of the regulars who stop by annually by league mandate, facing their usually lethal dose of the Blue Devildom and the privileged, raucus Crazies.
Unlike the 91-76 W there in ’83 by U of L’s national semi-finalists, who may have actually been the best Cardinal contingent ever, this year’s still raw squad gave its gutty all, but fell, 65-72.
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The Cardinals were led by The Future.
After a lackluster opening half, sophomore Quentin Snider led the charge, during the Cards’ comeback after the break, when they steamrolled from a 15 point deficit to take the lead. Q netted a trey from the corner to cut Duke’s advantage to four. Then converted a +1 to narrow it to a single digit.
Then another +1 at 6:12 for the lead, 58-57.
Snider unfortunately was whistled for his fourth foul with 3:13 to play, and was removed from the game. He committed his fifth at 2:01, less than a minute after being reinserted into the lineup.
Had he been able to run the show unimpeded by foul trouble throughout the game’s waning moments, who knows how it may have impacted the outcome? But, as they say, were ifs and buts candy and nuts . . . etc, etc.
Sophomore Anas Mahmoud’s was a commanding presence at the defensive end. With three blocks, he controlled the middle. Plus he tallied a key deuce during U of L’s 13-0 run that pulled them back in the game.
Freshman Ray Spalding played his best game on the road, giving no quarter underneath. 8 points. 6 rebounds. Two steals. And was the team’s +/- leader at +9 in 24 minutes of action.
Donovan Mitchell was all that and a bag of chips, leading Louisville in scoring with 17 on 7/11 shooting.
So, yeah, The Future is, you know, so bright . . . that’s right, sing it with me . . . you gotta wear shades.
* * * * *
Chinanu Onuaku was never present.
He seemed unnerved by Marshall Plumlee’s intensity.
The Duke pivot man was mean. Onuaku was meek. And continued to commit stupid fouls.
Team-wise, Louisville gave up too many drives to the hoop. The Blue Devils effectively spread the court, allowing several uncontested bunnies at the rim, and as many open inside/out threes.
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In an unusual college basketball season, one where experience is trending nationally, a regular season ACC title, while a worthy goal, is somewhat of a pipe dream for this immature Cardinal squad.
Which brings me to the hippopotamus in the room, Rick Pitino’s quandary for the final seven games of the campaign.
Does he continue to give an abundance of PT to Damion Lee and Trey Lewis? Or, does he allow Q to be the ringmaster, Mitchell his wing man in the backcourt, and give Deng Adel way more valuable court time than he has since the rookie has recovered from his injury?
While I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the Cards’ done&one grad transfers, without whose presence and leadership this squad would have been adrift, I must ask: Isn’t it time to acknowledge that Louisville is really playing for next season and beyond? And grant court time accordingly?
Last night in Durham, Lee seemed overwhelmed by the environment. Not only was he 3/15 from the field, time and again being unable to finish at the rim, he proved not ready for prime time late. When Louisville had its first possession with a chance to take the lead after that second half surge, Lee jacked up a quick, contested and thus ill-advised three. He misfired on another couple of longballs in the final minute, when driving to the dish should have been the modus operandi.
Yet, despite his mediocre performance, Adel only saw two minutes of action. That makes no sense to me. Give the neophyte some invaluable action under real combat conditions.
Trey Lewis played better than his counterpart, scoring a dozen. But he continues to try to dribble his way to nowhere, Horizon League style, to detrimental effect.
How Pitino decides to go in this regard the rest of the way is, to me, the most fascinating aspect of the rest of the season.
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Being an old fart traditionalist, I love the style of the Cards throw back uni.
But I despise that the road version is black.
Yes, black, along with red, is an official school color. But, for decades, U of L’s road unis were primarily red, leaving the black ones to rival Cincy with the same school colors.
At some juncture, when black garb became all the rage, Louisville trotted its version out. I forget the exact season, but the unveiling was road game at Georgia Tech, a tilt the Cards should have won, but didn’t.
The fan base as a group immediately decried the break from tradition. There were any number of black is black Ls to follow, before U of L finally won a game thusly garbed.
The Cardinals did not lose last night because they were wearing black.
It sure didn’t help.
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Next up, another road trip to a place that’s not so much fun for visitors.
South Bend on Saturday.
— Seedy K