In a second biting, coulda-woulda-shoulda defeat in a row, this time a waning seconds 77-79 frustration to Kevin Willard’s Pirates, there were moments of recognition, instances that may prove defining if this ’17-’18 edition of the Louisville Cardinals reaches some semblance of its reasonable potential.
Besides the several on the court twinklings when lights started to flicker, the most significant was on display in the aftermath.
David Padgett was pissed.
After taking the rostrum at his post game presser, he took a long swig from a bottle of water. As much to calm himself as to hydrate.
His comments were curt, if not as defiant and dismissive as those of his predecessor after similar losses. Padgett’s responses were quick, short and followed by a stare into the middle distance as if his mind was already contemplating solutions to the issues presented.
Snippets of his responses are telling.
“We work on defense, we get a stop, we get a rebound, and we come down and turn the ball over and give it right back to them. It seems like most of our turnovers are what I call ‘pick six’s’, where there is no defense for it. They get a back tip, we lose the ball, we do something, and we can’t go down and set our defense, and they just score.
“We gave them a lot of easy baskets. It seemed like most of our turnovers led to wide- open layups or advantage breaks for them . . . We’re just hurting ourselves at crucial times, and we have to learn from it and correct it in a hurry.
“Turnovers that are just absolutely killing us right now.
“It’s just a matter of us being stronger with the ball. There were a couple of times where we had an advantage break, then maybe back-tipped it and just get off the ball quicker, passing it earlier. But, we’ve just got to take a long hard look at it and get it fixed before Wednesday.”
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The Cardinal coach was speaking of interludes such as that which came after Deng Adel’s 2 FTs gave U of L a 61-58 lead with 10:02 to play. Anas Mahmoud blocked a shot, Adel grabbed the board, then Jordan Nwora threw it away. Seton Hall was foiled again, but Adel had the ball stripped while attempting to dribble down court; the gaffe compounded when Dwayne Sutton fouled the Pirate who came up with the pilfered rock. The visitors were stopped again, but VJ King lost the ball trying to drive the lane.
The Cards failed to capitalize a couple more times during the segment, ill advised shots were taken. After another stop, King tried to go end to end and kicked the ball away, resulting in a Seton Hall fastbreak slam.
That 61-58 advantage morphed into a 61-64 disadvantage.
Of Louisville unacceptable 16 turnovers, Adel had four and King had four. Many at critical times, many when they simply tried to force matters.
What frustrates Padgett, one guy’s take, is that these two leaders do lead when they play under control. Deng scored 20, including that turnaround fadeaway stunner for the last tie at :29, on 7/12 shooting, 6/6 at the line. VJ had 14 on 6/8 marksmanship. They each grabbed five rebounds.
Louisville only had 8 assists on 28 made FGs.
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Quentin Snider, the senior take charge guy at the point, finally showed up.
That he came down and fired the last shot in an attempt to grab the game back at the buzzer was an encouraging sign.
His three after the 3:32 timeout, with a shotclock violation imminent gave the Cardinals a 71-70 advantage and hope.
He had 15 points and 7 rebounds.
Malik Williams did several things that showed he learned from the setback at Purdue. After draining his first shot, a straightaway trey, he airballed one from the corner. After that he several times refrained from firing quick, ill advised long balls.
When the Cards were down 26-30 in the 1st, Williams hurled himself to the floor for a loose ball, which led to a deuce at the other end.
Though slight of frame, he did his best to check Pirate bruiser Angel Delgado in the paint, when forced into that defensive position because Ray Spalding and Mahmoud found themselves again on the bench with early foul trouble.
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I sat next to a former coach during the game, who during one timeout mentioned how Padgett’s demeanor as head guy needs to evolve.
“He was the ‘nice’ guy last year, that needs to change. The worst thing you can call a head coach is a player’s coach.”
That’s why Padgett’s visible anger and disappointment after the loss might be a turning point. For the better.
What needs to be remembered is that this coach has a steeper learning curve than the players.
He also implied that Cardinal fans might be seeing more of a shorter lineup. Though rebounding is going to be an issue for this less than bulky bunch, he seems to have realized that Spalding and Mahmoud on the court simultaneously may not be optimum, and that the team might be feistier and more efficient playing small.
This is a big week for the Cardinals.
U of L “should” handle Siena, #276 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. And “should” beat improving Indiana, #89. (The Cards are ranked #25 with the an Adjusted Defense ranking of #12.
— Seedy K