Louisville Card File: Central Florida

dunikcard“Live by the Russ, Die by the Russ.”

                     — The Old Philosopher

University of Louisville’s stat crew is nationally recognized as being the best in the biz. They’ve been doing the Final Four a long time, like since Cotton Mather’s highly favored Salem Witch Hunters were upset in the title game by Billy Penn’s Quakers.

Which is to say that they not only know what they’re doing, but have been at it for centuries.

That sterling rep took a bit of a hit last night at the Yum!.

Despite his 14 first half points, double that of any of his teammates, Russ Smith’s performance was so harum scarum, loosey goosey, outside any conceivable offense the Cards might have been wanting to run that The Rick pulled him with more than five minutes to play before intermission.

Those lauded official scorers only had the New Yorker with two turnovers at the break.

Coulda fooled me. Didn’t fool Pitino, who not only sat him on the pine until intermission, but didn’t start Smith in the 2d half.

Russ’s final stat line was ridiculous . . . ly glossy.

27 points on 9/14 shooting, including 2/5 from deep. 7/10 at the line. 5 rebounds.

And, at least according to the official stats, only three (3) turnovers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid, his irrepressible nature, his short memory, his stalwart career as a Cardinal, that he came back for his senior season, that smile, his recent high school prom date, that he ruled Rupp Arena, that he’s made more than his fair share of big shots, important shots.

But, for all that output, it seemed like he simply didn’t play a very good, nor very smart game last night.

And, I’d stake my 401(K) that he committed considerably more than 3 turnovers against UCF. There were a couple of times when he wouldn’t give up his dribble, and attempted to score one on five, that he committed that many on one possession. Or, so it seemed.

“Live by the Russ, Die by the Russ.”

Smith tallied a trey 7 seconds into the game. Another soon thereafter for the Cards next score. Then, on the next possession, he jacked up a third which clanked, when two teammates were wide open considerably closer to the hoop.

“Live by the Russ, Die by the Russ.”

The flip side, and there’s always those moments when you think to yourself, “Where would this team be without Smith?,” was the interlude after the break when Russ scored most of the points, grabbed most of the boards, made most of the assists in a flurry that increased Louisville’s lead to 65-52.

“Live by the Russ, Die by the Russ.”

He needs to be taking that stat crew, where he’s obviously got friends, out for some pancakes.

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As for other wisdom from The Old Philosopher:

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Is there a play Pitino’s Cardinal teams run that fans loathe more than what I call the Edgar Sosa play?

You know, Louisville’s got the ball with shot clock off before intermission, or with the game on the line. Jones or Smith or Rozier, like Siva and Sosa before them, tom tom the ball at the top of the key as the seconds tick off. Those in the crowd not restless in their seats are actually groaning at the prospect of what ill fate is to come?

Well, last night was the exception to the rule. Jones got the ball to Wayne Blackshear. Who proceeded to drain a three, for a ten point halftime advantage.

The vexing Second City forward began the second stanza the same way. With a trey that increased the Cards’ lead to lucky 13.

Blackshear, despite committing his first foul only forty two seconds into the tilt,1 was back on his feed in a steady 31 minute stint. 10 points, 6 boards, 2 assists and a steal.

* * * * *

I’m not sure if The Rick has given up on Mangok Mathiang for the season, but he sure did last night.

The freshman pivot played two minutes total, all in the first half.

The Rick: “The problem with Mangok is he is not blocking enough shoots and not rebounding enough to go with his other mistakes. So we may have to go small and just stay with it because we’re getting beat on the glass too much and we just have to adjust.”

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This is a Cardinal edition with little margin of error for post season success.

Thus, it is disheartening yet again to note last night’s FT stat: 16/25. That’s just 64%.

Also, the Cards gave up more second chance points (17) than they made (14).

Rebounding deficits must be accepted. Hancock and Blackshear both need to be on the floor. The Cards are going small the rest of the way. Peripheral damage is to be expected.

* * * * *

The win proves that, even if challenged more than one would like as last night, the Cards can handle the schleppers in the league.

The question remains: What’s going to happen when they visit Memphis State, Cincy, and seesaw SMU?

Though U of L has taken care of biz against the lessers, might the Cards be blindsided at Temple and Houston?

Last night’s W underscored the nature of this team at this time. Flawed. In need of improvement. But capable of same.

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You think that long down period before the Cincy game was an aberration, think again?

The Cards visit Houston on Wednesday. Then have another 8 day layoff until they trip to Philly to take on the Owls. Which is the first of a nine day interlude, during which U of L also plays Rutgers and South Florida at home and Cincy on the road.

No games for 8 days. Then 4 games in 9 days.

The word cockamamie comes to mind.

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The delayed welcome for Bobby Petrino was certainly a warm one, with the crowd chanting, “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby . . .”

Most of the football team, which was sitting near the upper press box, left after being introduced at halftime. Or, found other seating.

— Seedy K