One, a loyal reader of Seedy K — thank you, very much — expressed some misgivings about Wayne Blackshear, and his ability to meet expectations in this his senior season. V said something to the effect, “I’m still not convinced about Blackshear.”
I demurred. It’s been obvious all season, at least to me, that Blackshear is a totally different presence on the court. Active. Aggressive. Assertive. Willing to mix it up on the boards. Intent to take it all the way to the hoop when a route is open. Comfortable with pull up short range jumpers. He Ds up.
During WB’s stunning performance last night, I jotted this note, “Do Not Doubt Wayne Blackshear.”
In the spotlight of the biggest game of the year, with a plethora of pro scouts in the house along with national media, and the cameras of The World Wide Leader, the Chicagoan was the deal.
During the Cardinals’ amazing first half, Blackshear was the amazingist. With 1:14 to play before intermission, the score was Blackshear 16, Ohio State 16.1
Sixteen points on 5/8 shooting including 3/5 beyond the arc. 3/3 at the line, 5 rebounds and a steal.
His numbers were down after the break, but not his zeal nor presence. He ended up the game’s leading scorer with 22, had three steals and hit six of his seven FT attempts. He was relentless on D, and played 38 passionate minutes, surely a career high.
The nation took note. Read the take of ESPN’s basketball analyst Dana O’Neil here.
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Because cheering is frowned upon, forbidden actually, in the press section, I have taken to writing my hopes and nervous implores in my notes.2
Things were looking dire for the Cardinals with 6:14 to play.
Just a moment before, a Chris Jones trey had seemingly short-circuited Ohio State’s relentless persistence, pushing U of L’s diminishing lead back to a dozen. But, nine seconds after that, the Buckeyes answered, rushing the ball up court. D’Angelo Russell got it to Kam Williams in the corner for a quick response three.
+ 1, when Silent L fouled Williams on the shot. The lead was whittled to 8. With that fourth foul, Harrell had but one infraction left to play with.
Always the wishful thinker, I jotted down in my notes, “TR WINS GAME!!!”
Here’s what Terry Rozier, my favorite current Cardinal, did from that juncture forward . . . with a twice displaced pinkie.
5:04 Blocked Ohio State shot.
3:49 Drained a threeball to push the lead back to eight, 54-46.
3:02 Dropped in a driving layup for a 56-49 advantage.
:46 Hit the most important shot of the game, a trey that gave Louisville breathing room at 59-53.
:16 Hit a FT to give the Cards a three score lead, 62-55.
:11 Rebounded the visitors’ last shot of the encounter.
Rozier inexplicably got his pocket picked 5 times last night. Actually, it was, according to The Rick, explicable. The guard’s finger injury adversely affected his ability to control his dribble as deftly as normal. Which explanation, plausible as it seems, I accept.3
What TR did otherwise is why I love his play.
7 rebounds. 7 assists. 3 steals. And that blocked shot.
Oh yeah, and he played suffocating defense.4
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In fact, as spotty and unimpressive as Louisville’s offense has been so far this year, the team is ahead of schedule on the defensive end.
Coming into the game, the Buckeyes were 2d nationally in FG% at 56+%. And 6th in the land in assist/turnover ratio.
Last night, the Cards held them to 30% shooting (17/56), forced the visitors to commit 14 turnovers, allowing the Buckeyes but 7 assists.
The Cards, playing most of the game without its top two pivots, outrebounded Ohio State, 46-41.
Credit to Ohio State for the stellar D it played after the break, allowing them to cut their 17 point halftime deficit to three at one moment late. Mo’ credit to the Cards, who played it for the whole forty.
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After a recent game, I lauded Chinanu Onuaku’s passing acumen, comparing him to great passing bigs from the past.
Turns out, as good as he is, Anas Mahmoud is probably better. The Egyptian, as he has become known because that’s the kind of shorthand society uses these days, is really an instinctual passer. Plus the ball rarely lingers in his paws. He knows the drills, gets it in the post, turns and delivers it like UPS. On time and where it’s supposed to go.
The kid’s a keeper. Wait until he gets some experience and strength.
He was certainly up to the moment last night. 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steady presence in the paint, despite his lack of power.
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Louisvillian D’Angelo Russell could play for the Cards. Actually, he can play for anybody.
I do wonder why the Cardinals who were checking him, didn’t cheat to the kid’s left, forcing him to go right?
That’s the kind of thing Pitino’s teams usually take away from a foe. But, please don’t confuse that with criticism of the Cards’ coach. Despite Louisville’s offensive woes, one guy’s opinion is that he’s doing a great job so far with this bunch.
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Other quick observations:
Silent L, ho hum, had a double double. 13 points, 10 caroms.
Foul shooting remains a significant issue for this squad. 16/28. Not acceptable.5
Though still young, Quentin Snider and Jaylen Johnson gave U of L some needed, steady if unspectacular relief.
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Next up: Improving IU in the Gahhhhhhden. Correction: Next up is a scrimmage against Florida International. Then, the Hoosiers in NY, NY.
— Seedy K