It took an 11-3 run at the end to provide distance from the Norris Place visitors.
Given how good the crosstown DII power traditionally is under Scott Davenport, the victory was certainly revelatory for the Cardinals, as well as a testament to the Knights stature.
And, given that two definite Cardinal vet contributors — Steven Enoch and Malik Williams — and probable eventual go to PG David Johnson didn’t play, the game results could be considered a throwaway. At the very least, perspective, as it usually is when it’s still October, is required.
Frankly, there are a several concerns that have gnawed at me as the season dawns.
Is Jordan Nwora really the best player in the ACC, and one of the five best in the land? How will he handle that hype?
Is Louisville legitimately one of the major Final Four contenders, and how shall the team and the coaching staff handle those expectations?
Who will evolved as point guard?
Which of the freshmen are ready to contribute?
As expected, none of those questions were answered in full with the season opener a week ahead in Coral Gables.
But there is a bit more clarity.
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After observing Nwora in his overloaded 38 minutes of action, I’m a bit more of a believer in the aura of hyperbole than I was before Tuesday evening.
On the very first possession of the game, he stole an errant Knight pass, drove the court, and fed Dwayne Sutton on his left for a fastbreak layup. To view that from somebody who in the past has seemed disinclined to find the open man when leading the break, it was a heartening sign.
He had a team leading five assists.
Nwora has always displayed an intuitive knack for rebounding. That is still present.
The guy can shoot, and, as has been oft observed, isn’t afraid to shoot. Because of the lack of scoring bigs in the post, because Samuell Williamson who shall be the other scorer is still finding his sea legs, my sense is Nwora pressed more against Bellarmine than he will as the season progresses.
He fired off too many shots — 21 — but canned 10, including 5/11 from behind the new more distant three point line.
That he also committed a team leading four turnovers remains a concern. Yet, despite that, my impression is that his game is more measured than a season ago, a good sign.
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Samuell Williamson is the deal.
He has a great feel for the game. One small sign, when receiving an inbound pass toward the midcourt stripe, he instinctively knows to catch it in the backcourt.
He fashioned a sweet baseline drive on U of L’s fifth possession of the tilt, draining both FTs when fouled. His post up spin J, putting the Cards ahead 32-27, reminded me of Jim Price. (If you’re too young, ask your uncle about that Cardinal star from yesteryear.)
In the middle of the 2d, when the battle was still a disturbing back and forth, Williamson stole the ball one trip, grabbed a critical offensive board on another, and converted a +1 to keep Bellarmine at bay.
SW was only 2/8 from the field at halftime, but had already snared 4 boards 3 offensive. He hit 4/5 in the 2d and grabbed five more missed shots.
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Playing 34 minutes at the 5, Dwayne Sutton had 18 points and 13 rebounds, matching Williamson’s 5 off the offensive glass.
The DuPont Manual grad is a warrior.
Chris Mack mentioned postgame how he wants Sutton to become more than just a “glue guy.” I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Nor am I sure that it needs to happen for this Louisville squad to excel.
But he is ever the classic I’m-really-glad-that-guy’s-on-my-team baller.
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My sense is Darius Perry might turn out to be this season’s whipping boy. Every team seems to have one every campaign, the guy who never can satisfy the fan base.
I like his game. I like how, at Media Day, he was the guy going around the room, giving his teammates grief while they were being interviewed, keeping things light. I like how he has stayed the course. I like how Mack likes his improvements.
I liked Perry’s game last night.
He had 7 rebounds and a couple of assists. No turnovers.
More important, he’s a lock down defender, made a couple of great hustle plays late in the 1st, running down a loose ball, and a steal. He came out in the 2d with even more intensity.
Fresh Kimble is obviously still adapting. To Mack’s system. To his teammates. To hooping away from the Palestra. He still had 3 assists without turning it over.
His deuce at the shot clock late to put the Cards up 73-64 is spelled V-e-t-e-r-a-n.
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As for the other freshmen:
I’m not sure whether Quinn Slazinski’s going to redshirt or not, but am sure he’s got a lot of learning to do.
On his first offensive foray, the kid from Houston didn’t go full speed on a pick and roll and didn’t get to what could have been a nifty feed. He was beaten almost every time his man got the ball. (To be fair, a lot of Cardinals were beaten off the dribble all evening. The Knights know their O and execute with the usual precision Davenport teaches.)
To be honest, I’m taken aback by how raw Aidan Igiehan is. His stat line in but seven minutes of action is lots of 0s, 3 fouls and 2 turnovers, once when stepping on the endline while trying to craft a post move.
Jae’lyn Withers also played.
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The Cards gave up way too many — way way too many — points in the paint on drives to the hoop. 30. I suspect that will be less of an issue moving forward, when there’s a post presence and the Cards help D processes.
Louisville was 13/15 at the line. Several national pundits have made mention in their preseason assessments how the Cardinals’ proficiency at the charity stripe shall inure to their benefit.
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The season tips next Tuesday at Miami.
— Seedy K