Not the least of which is that but for an improbable, what’s-he-doing-taking-the-shot, dying seconds jumper in the final regular season tilt of ’15 by Mangok Mathiang of all people, RP would be ofer UVa.
After last night’s second half fade away, The Rick and the Cardinals are 1-5 against the Cavaliers since joining the ACC. So, it’s fair to say that even if the Cards had been at full strength, a victory in Charlottesville last evening would have been worthy of inclusion at the Guinness House of Curiosities.
Heck, simply scoring in the 50s against the Wahoos is an accomplishment.
Last night, the Cardinals did that. But, after eerily forging ahead 32-25 on a V.J. King J with 3:04 to go in the first, U of L was doubled up by Virginia the rest of the way, 23-46.
The Cards were similarly unimpressive on the boards, losing that battle by a 1-2 margin, 19-38. The Cards grabbed but six rebounds after intermission.
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
One can conclude that the presence of Silent K and fellow ex-patrioted Aussie Deng Adel would probably have made a difference. But, as we all know, both were chained in the dog house and didn’t even make the trip to John Paul Jones Arena.
(Feel free to add a Led Zeppelin reference of your choice to add levity, in an attempt to ease the pain of a woeful Cardinal performance.)
Mathiang’s absence was so onerous for his coach, that Pitino cut his post game Q&A with the attendant media to less than a minute when the suspended player’s name was mentioned.
(Which petulant, unprofessional behavior is typical for Pitino, and is, frankly, another smudge on his curriculum vitae. It’s not like RP hasn’t made some untoward mistakes off the court himself. He’s making a huge amount of money, and needs to meet his professional obligations, win or lose.)
* * * * *
At any rate, Louisville’s early immaculate play fell apart quickly after that 7 point advantage.
A Jaylen Johnson flush off a feed from David Levitch was the only other Cardinal tally before the break.
Meanwhile London Perrantes netted three FTs, and the Cavaliers got a second chance tip in off a missed trey, and a follow off a missed FT, when Louisville failed to block out Jack Salt.
The second half started just as poorly. U of L’s first five possessions: two missed layups, two missed threes, a travel. Meanwhile UVa continued its run, scoring 7 straight. More telling is that 5 of those points were second chance.
With Virginia still the teacher and Louisville still the pupil who hasn’t learned the lessons yet, the Cavaliers pulled away steadily.
The whole second half was U.G.L.Y. The Cards were 6/24 from the field; the home team, 13/22. The Cards grabbed 6 rebounds; UVa, 22. Points in the paint were 4-20. Fast break points were 0-6. The Cardinals didn’t get a single second chance score after halftime.
Down four players, it was illogical to think U of L could win, especially away from home on a short turnaround against its greatest nemesis in the league.
But still . . . first half: great hustle, great ball movement; second half: nuttin’ honey.
Pitino had legitimate reasons to be upset. But he still needs to be a standup guy and meet the press.
* * * * *
What else did we learn?
Anas Mahmoud remains an enigma.
Let’s be frank, he played a horrid game.
He secured only one rebound. He was 1/6 from the field, time and again missing layups. He was 0/3 at the line.
His play is obviously not the only reason U of L lost. But, in a game when he needed to come up big, he faltered.
We also learned, that when given a chance to stay on the court and play through his mistakes, V.J. King is as good as his Golden Arches AA status led us to believe he would be.
Logging 37 minutes of court time, King was able to settle in. He was the game’s leading scorer with 24. 8/14 from the field. 3/5 from beyond the line. 5/6 at the charity stripe.
Do I take this moment to complain about another of Pitino’s habits? Of course.
Anybody who pays attention knows that RP has a quick trigger finger on the exit door. A player makes a mistake, he’s back on the bench. Which may work in the long run, but is not so easy for rookies, who don’t understand when he doesn’t allow them to play through miscues.
King had to play against UVa because Adel was back at Billy Minardi Hall watching on the tube. And he proved he is ready for more minutes if allowed to feel the flow of the game.
The obvious historical reference is Russ Smith, who was talked into returning for his sophomore year after a nothing frosh season due to injury. He only got a chance to show what he could do after Peyton Siva got hurt. But for Siva’s sit down, Russ might have continued on the pine, then transferred to play for Stevie Mass at Manhattan.
So, we learned that Mahmoud remains a work in progress. That King is more ready than his coach thought. (And arguably better than Adel.) That Mathiang is mandatory.
That the eagerly anticipated return of Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks can’t come soon enough.
That a squad which needs to try and steal even a few minutes with this lineup on the court — Matz Stockman, Jay Henderson, Ryan McMahon, Johnson and Levitch — ain’t goin’ nowhere.
That Ray Spalding might — operative word: might — be able to find his rhythm as V.J. did if given more consistent PT.
* * * * *
What we didn’t learn, and what neither Glorious Editor Mike Rutherford nor I, and perhaps many readers, don’t understand is this:
Why was the U of L team back home Saturday night anyway?
With such a short turnaround, and lack of prep time, why didn’t they have fly directly from Boston to Charlottesville, instead of flying home then trekking to Virginia?
It. Makes. No. Sense.
Riddle me that, RP?
* * * * *
One hopes the Mathiang/ Adel drama won’t rupture this team’s upward arc.
I hope not. I believe not.
Pitino’s nothing if not a pragmatist. My guess is their fellow players will, or already have, forgiven the duo.
We’ll find out Saturday. Feisty Miami comes to town.
— Seedy K