It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .
Charles Dickens, a Louisville Cardinal fan?
Has to be, right?
His opening of “Tale of Two Cities” is as fresh and wise a descriptor of last evening’s survival against Pitt, as well as the confusing state of U of L hoops as conference play gets serious, as it was of Britain and France in the 18th century.
Louisville’s isn’t it time for the final buzzer to sound 85-80 endurance testing W over a Pitt squad with no quit was, to morph Dickensian one more time, a Tale of Two Halves. (The Rick’s exact words to open his post game presser.)
U of L won the first by 21, hitting 50% of its shots, 5/7 from long range and 10/11 at the line. The Cards outscored the Panthers 18-4 in the paint, 15-4 off turnovers, 11 of which they forced. They got 14 points from guys who started the game on the pine.
U of L lost the second by 16, hitting only 44% of its shots, draining but 1 of 7 threeballs, and missing 10 of 23 FTs. Including 5 of 6 during a 50 second Pitt flurry near the end that cut the Cards lead to six with :35.9, plenty of time for a couple more treys to send the game to OT. U of L was outpointed 18-0 off the 11 turnovers it committed.
So, yeah, it was the Best of Halves, it was the Worst of Halves.
Though the Cardinals survived, and that’s never to be discounted, last night’s second stanza dissonance was more disturbing than the Baylor meltdown. It’s January now, not November. This one was at home, and in the league. And the Cardinals didn’t have tired legs from playing a third game in three days.
To be frank, there were signs during U of L’s exemplary first half performance that the team might not be fully focused.
The Cards threw it away on their third possession, causing The Rick to call a timeout 2:03 into the tilt. Anas Mahmoud missed two point blank layups and had another blocked in the Cards’ first five possessions. (Was it the missing bandage over his eye that sapped him of his prowess?)
During the Cards run up to its big lead, Quentin Snider inexplicably committed a rookie error, the kind of mistake he rarely if ever makes. Against Pitt’s full court press, he dribbled into a trap along the sideline and mid court stripe.
Jaylen Johnson continued to refuse to close with authority. V.J. King continued to shoot it short.
In the corridor bars during intermission, Cardinal fans were talking Duke.
The way Louisville played after the break, the players might also been thinking ahead.
They played on cruise control and it got them in a heap o’ trouble.
The most noticeable events of the second half to me: 1. U of L never solved Pitt’s 1-3-1. 2. Pitino, for the first time I can remember, was so disturbed by the Cards play, he shedded his coat and tie and unbuttoned his shirt.
Frankly, the second half remains a blur. (Unfortunately I forgot to tape it, to rewatch.) Pitt, an experienced squad, was relentless. Jamel Artis tallied 32 himself, just 6 short of the entire Cardinal contingent.
So, this vexing ’16-’17 Cardinal edition continues to confound.
At times, this team’s defense is smothering. But at moments, it fails to rotate properly, giving up easy shot attempts. The offense has been, is now, and is likely to remain inconsistent. (Kinda like that ’11-’12 squad that still fought their way to the Final Four.)
But, a W is, you know, a W.
The Cards are 14-3.
And you know who is coming to town Saturday.
— Seedy K