I have been adamant, and have opined in this space as well as to any and all with whom I might have shared a conversation about the tallest Cardinal, that Matz Stockman “would never be a significant presence” while at U of L.
He seemed too slow, too clumsy footed, too mechanical, too reticent, to ever be a factor.
For that opinionation, I have been chastised, sometime with a knowing smile, more often with the virulence of a Republican presidential candidate going big game sport hunting against a fellow elephant, who is also in the running.
Those who criticized my criticism of the Louisville’s resident Norwegian were right.
I was wrong.
And, frankly, I trust I’m not the only one, who now watches in amazement at his relatively quick development.
So, to confirm my recantation, I was inclined in this space to hyperbolize as to how his entry into last evening’s 72-58 thunderation of Syracuse was the turning point. How his follow shot of his own miss to pull the Cards within 21-22, and how his jumper twenty seconds later, handing U of L its first lead of the tilt, how those two dazzling plays kickstarted the Cardinals’ rout, energizing both teammates and the theretofore laid back crowd.
While, it was a beauteous interlude, and further confirmation of my inability to assess talent in the same manner as, say, a Hall of Fame, twice national champion coach, Stockman’s spotlight moments were more an exclamation point for the Cards first half awakening, not the catalyst.
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Let’s be clear about last night.
In the beginning, the Cardinals were dreadful. I turned Doug Ormay, and said, “I don’t have a good feeling about this game.” Which confirms that misappraising Matz wasn’t my only mistake of the evening.
Louisville was ofer its opening six possessions. A couple of turnovers, a couple missed treys, a failure to convert a second chance, a missed floater after a sweet penetration.
Syracuse 5, Louisville nil.
Truth be told, the errancy didn’t end there.
Louisville played like a team with nothing to look forward to. Those gathered sat mum, like a fan base with nothing to look forward to. Both of which are fact, Jack.
U of L made but one of it first 9 FG attempts. After a Trevor Cooney triple at 9:51 of the first, the somnambulant Cards trailed by a dozen, 6-18.
A Quentin Snider trey, and another by Trey Lewis, playing his most mature game in the red & black, halved the deficit. Buckets by Damion Lee and Chinanu Onuaku further reduced the margin.
David Levitch netted a long ball just :15 into the game. It was the prime factor that motivated the late arriving crowd to set down their cocktails, put away their cellphones and get involved.
It was after that juncture that Matz put his imprimatur on the contest.
Eschewing the usual half ending Sosa play due to Jim Boeheim’s vaunted zone D, the Cards headed to the locker room, up a point, thanks to a Trey trey1
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But for the moment when Ray Spalding went down, and stayed down, and the L1C4 Nation feared he’d be joining teammates Anas Mahmoud and Mangok Mathiang in street clothes for the rest of the campaign, the second stanza was Fun in the Yum!.
U of L continued to play good defense, keeping the Orange totally of sorts. A Syracuse scribe said they were “flummoxed.”
At the offensive end, the Cards drained 20/36 (56%) after intermission. Actually, the bulleyesmanship began in the first half. After that woeful 1/9 start, the Cardinals were 31/58 the rest of the way. That’s a glossy 53%.
A sure sign of how well oiled Louisville’s offense was, how it flowed with purpose from side to side, and outside in, is this stat: 21 assists on 32 made buckets. Q had six assists, and turned it over only once. Damion, Nanu and Donovan had four apiece.
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There were any number of fun interludes after the break. My faves:
Damion canned three triples in a row, pushing U of L’s margin to 49-40.
After the ensuing media timeout, when Joey’s guys filled the stands with t-shirts and peanuts, came another 7 zed run. Donovan’s jackhammer slam was punctuated with a converted, second chance Chinanu +1, and a Trey Lewis layup, after he stole the inbounds pass.
His team then down 15, 56-41, Boeheim, with full frontal frown, was forced to call a stoppage. It didn’t help.
Nanu went highlight reel behind the back, hitting Lewis for a deuce. 60-44.
Hammer Time continued. Johnson flushed a one hander after a beautiful feed. Then did it again. Mitchell added another slam. Both gentlemen have now officially qualified for Delta Omega Delta, the Doctors of Dunk fraternity.
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I loved how Damion Lee, as we’re wont to say, let the game come to him. After a 4 point, one board opening stanza, he finished with 15 and six.
Nanu also kicked it in gear after halftime, finishing with a studly 13 points, 15 rebounds, those four assists previously cited, a block, a steal, and only two fouls.
I loved that Trey Lewis kept the ball moving, dribbling much less than previously.
I’m not sure what it means — other than Syracuse didn’t foul much — but U of L only shot two free throws. Before the Cards started disassembling ‘Cuse after the break, they were able to stay close, thanks to the visitors’ inefficiency at the line, where they hit less the 60%.
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Coming in, Syracuse had won five in a row, 8 of its last 9.
The Syracuse players wore orange warmups with “Pearl” inscribed on the front. There are current efforts in the university community to raise funds to aid the former star guard, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, who is suffering from cancer, and is said to be destitute.
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Next: Duke. Noon. Saturday.
Louisville’s 1986 NCAA champs, which beat the Blue Devils for the title, shall be feted at the game. You can read my homage to that team here.
— Seedy K