Louisville Card File: Ohio State

joaniecardAt a soiree last weekend, to honor the first grandkid of some best friends since my high school days, I got into a U of L hoops conversation with some next gen pals, who love the Cardinals.

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.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Louisvillian D’Angelo Russell could play for the Cards. Actually, he can play for anybody.

Smooth.

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Next up: Improving IU in the Gahhhhhhden. Correction: Next up is a scrimmage against Florida International. Then, the Hoosiers in NY, NY.

— Seedy K

15 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Ohio State

  1. Any comment on Chris Jones? He shot a whopping 20% last night (typical for him). He’s shooting 28% on the year and has taken more shots than anyone else on the team. That’s wrong.

  2. I can see that the late hour of the game and your desire to post your thoughts quickly for all of us to enjoy has caused you to slip up. I bet that OSU had only one D’Angelo — Russell, that is, not Williams — even though he played well enough at times that it seemed like there were two of him. Unfortunately he did not choose to play for the hometown Cards because we could certainly benefit from his ability to get to the basket. And according to my schedule the next up is Florida International, not IU. Let’s not look past any foe or we may end up playing like we did against Cleveland State.

  3. It’s comforting to know there are loyal readers out there, ready to correct my every gaffe. I’m most appreciative. Corrections shall be made.

  4. I’m withholding judgement on Chris Jones. It is his nature to force offense, a common trait of former jucos. And I agree with Doc, a loyal reader, who thinks Jones is trying to tap into his inner Russ Smith. Which isn’t there. I still have a hunch that his negatives won’t be as harmful to this team, as, say, Harrell not getting his butt under the basket and playing the game that got him to his lofty status. Or, FT shooting, which, if it doesn’t improve, will be fatal at crunch time in March.

  5. In the second half [first twelve minutes or so anyway], as ugly a Cardinal offense as I’ve seen in many years. [And I’ve been following U of L basketball since the Missouri Valley Conference days—remember the hazy cloud of cigarette smoke that floated above the Freedom Hall scoreboard and the lovely twinkling of butane lighters? Those were the days. Things are looking up, however: Chinanu, Good Wayne, the quiet confidence on Mahmoud, a ruthless, smothering defense led by Jones and Rozier. If we can get a few shots to fall [or even if we don’t, I suppose], the ACC will be a joy to watch.

    1. You left out the mini cinnamon donuts from the cart behind the end zone seats. I think they threw out the cart around 1956. Those things were great. Of course I didn’t know about Krispy Kreme back then.

  6. …….if this team can shoot a decent %(doesn’t have to be good or great) , FT’s included, it can beat anybody, including your Cayuts. If not, it can lose to about any decent team with good enough athletes to deal with our pressure D….

    I am sure a bunch of NBA scouts were here last night for a reason, but Wayne B. was not one of them. He will not play in the NBA. Love the guy, but he is way too pedestrian to make any NBA roster. Still, he is the best shooter on the team and we will need him badly throughout the year.

    Jones’ shot will fall…eventually. Maybe not 50% but he will improve it over the course of the season…..

    Terry needs to get confidence in his outside shot. He can certainly get to the rim, but if he can hit 35% on 3’s watch out…

    And I think Trez will eventually figure out where his money will be made and refocus on the inside game, with just a threat of an outside presence.

    How far we go will be determined by the above, plus the continued improvement of Nanu, Q, Mango, and hopefully Shaq.

    We are infinitely better than last years UCONN team though clearly not as good as our 2013 Nat Champs………

  7. We were “infinitely better” than last year’s champion UConn team . . . last year. Last night, before the game, I was chatting up Mike DeCourcey, Sporting News basketball guy. Last year’s UConn title came up. We both just shook our heads. A totally inexplicable title.

  8. This is going to be a tough team to watch. Our point guard doesn’t seem to think anyone else can shoot as good as he can and doesn’t seem to care-he just keeps hoisting it up. Wayne just has to continue to assert himself-keep looking to score. Zones seem to hurt us bad. Going to be tough to watch. I think defense looks good though and that’s probably the only thing. Kats are going to murder us.

  9. I’m just not sure I understand why, more often than not, Cardinal fans judge the team in relation to the rival down the road. This year’s UK team is unique in the amount of talent it has, and will be favored to beat everybody it plays. Besides, the Wildcats aren’t the next team on U of L’s schedule. Florida International is.

  10. As an aside, as the host of this blog knows, my Kentucky born, UL fan daughter lives in north central Ohio, about an hour and half north of Columbus with her diehard OSU Buckeye husband. (The den is a shrine to Woody and the Bucks, the dining room is a shrine to the KY Derby.) So on game day, she wears her best UL shirt (she’s a high school teacher). A UL banner already hangs in her class room. NO ONE, she noted, said anything about her shirt. Then, the next morning,(they watched the game in separate rooms) NO ONE at her school said anything to her about the game. Plus on the Columbus AM station that is all Bucks all the time, the lead story was Saturday’s Big 10 championship game and NOTHING about the basketball game the night before. Like Big Blue Nation and football, basketball is a placeholder on the calendar for Buckeye Nation, Football is king in Ohio.

    1. I went to the Columbus Dispatch to read about the game from the OSU point of view. It took two or three minutes to even find the article. Buried under something like 23 football articles. Reminds me of the 2013 championship game in Atlanta where a huge percentage of the Michigan fans were wearing tee shirts that said “Michigan Football.” Seems like the B1G is a one trick pony when it comes to fan interest.

  11. Methinks cbcard’s memory fails. Any fan who has attended U of L games back to the 60s, and beyond, will surely remember the mini donuts. However, they survived well past 1956. I specifically recall partaking after the Cards moved to Freedom Hall.

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