There are forty minutes of game action. Sixty fouls were called by the obsessive zebra crew of Terry Wymer, Bryan Dorsey and John Gaffney, which accounts for another 45 minutes or so of time. Fifteen timeouts at two minutes apiece is another 30 minutes. Halftime ate up another fifteen minutes.
Which left 48 minutes for the Pitino Family LoveFest Infomercial. I know, I know, it seemed like a lot more. But, hey, if they weren’t going to show footage of PeePaw Rick changing the diapers of his grandkids, who it must be noted garnered more TV time than Wayne Blackshear and Chinanu Onuaku combined; or show Pitino the Elder and Pitino the Younger in the head relieving themselves, what else was there to reveal?
Enough was way way way more than enough. I noted Richard’s expression as he walked on the court, which, at first, I thought indicate bemusement. Then, after yet another father and son interview by Andy Katz, which insinuated itself between the national anthem(s), player intros and tip, I knew it was vexation Richard P couldn’t hide.
Sooooooooo, if you were able to abide by all those incessant distractions and Coast Guard promos, as a Cardinal fan, my guess is you’re feeling pretty good today.
There were any number of reasons for the Red & Black faithful to feel optimistic, besides the reality of a steady and oh so very very sweaty 81-68 W.
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I’ll save my adulation for the stars for a moment.
First I want to talk about Quentin Snider, Jaylen Johnson and surprise starter Chinanu Onuaku.
Snider, who played very tentatively in the scrimmages and exhibitions, seemed a different kid in that Puerto Rican hangar. On his first offensive possession, he canned a jumper +1, to cut the Cards deficit to a digit. He grabbed the board on the ensuing defensive interlude.
In the second half, when Minnesota kept hanging around, thanks to Cardinal foul trouble and fatigue, and cut the lead to 9, Snider drilled a corner trey to increase the lead to a dozen. The Gophers continued to hover around, but that Ballard bomb was a message to Minnesota: “You ain’t gonna come back and steal this game.”
In 14 minutes of action, Snider tallied 7, grabbed 4 caroms and gained significant confidence.
Jaylen Johnson only played a minute. But he played. Which tells me The Rick now realizes he’s going to be a contributor, possibly a really significant one, this season. JJ was zeros across, but held tough on D. And carved out a solid, textbook post up on one O possession.
Nanu fell prey to the zebras whistle epidemic. Five fouls limited him to 8 minutes on the hardwood. But he hits the boards, he blocks shots, and he has the proverbial huge upside.
I really liked what I saw from that trio of rookies.
* * * * *
Mea culpa maxima.
Yes, I am the so-called expert, who opined that U of L would be in trouble if Silent L1 fired three or more treys a game.
He went three for four against Minnesota, and it did not appear the aberration. This beast of a baller now has legit jumper. I believe.
Especially since the career 48% FT shooter went a significantly more solid 9/10 at the line. It did not appear the aberration. His mechanics have been totally overhauled. I believe.
I was about to write in the run up to the opener that Montrezl was being overhyped as a first team All-American and POY candidate. I was wrong. I believe.
* * * * *
I’ve loved Terry Rozier, since before he even donned a Cardinal uni, camo, shirt sleeve or traditional tank top. Because he wasn’t immediately eligible, he spent a year at prep school, yet his allegiance to U of L and desire to play for the Cards never wavered.
Then I saw him play, steady, relatively error free as a frosh, great rebounder, mature decision maker . . . and my man crush grew.
TR’s the deal.
18 points. 7/11 from the field. Six rebounds. Four assists. NO turnovers.
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What I found so heartening about the season opening W was how the Cardinals kept a solid foe measured after taking the lead, while there is so much room for improvement.
Shaqquan Aaron, allegedly the best of U of L’s newcomers, didn’t dress. JJ is just getting into shape and adjusting to what has now become known as the “culture” of Louisville hoops. Nanu is going to be getting the majority of minutes in the pivot as the season gets serious. Unless The Rick feels Anas Mahmoud deserves a shot.
And, I’m not deceived by Wayne Blackshear’s familiar-looking foul prone performance. He stayed in the game late mentally, even when burdened with 4 fouls. Like Jay Bilas,2 I’m of the opinion that we shall indeed see a different, better, more productive Wayne Blackshear as the season progresses.
Next: Jacksonville State.
— Seedy K