Louisville 94, Indiana 74.
We learned that this edition of the Louisville Cardinals can take a punch, chew some canvas in the second half, then get off the mat to finish the fight as victor.
We learned — yet again — that Montrezl Harrell, when he stakes his claim to that semi circle around the hoop, is the Ruler of His World.
We learned that Terry Rozier, who unfortunately shall be toiling in a Utah Jazz or NJ Nets jersey next year, would, were he to decide to extend his stay on the Belknap Campus, become one of the elite all-around Cardinal guards . . . ever.
But let’s start with Chris Jones.
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It was just the other day that consternation furrowed the brows of Cardinal faithful hither and yon, whenever Jones name came up.
“He’s too short.”
“He can’t shoot.”
“He’s selfish, he never passes the ball.”
“He’s trying to get in touch with his inner Russ Smith.”1
“He drives into the paint, then can’t finish.”2
When I failed to mention him in a previous Card File, one reader asked about my omission, wondering what I thought of Jones’ play? To which I replied, it was too early to tell. Despite my trepidation, I thought it too soon to turn him into a villain.
Though it doesn’t come close to demonstrating how Chris Jones took over last night’s tilt, grabbing it back from the Hoosiers’ short and curlies when a Louisville W was slipping into the Big Apple night, the stats are telling.
24 points on 8/17 from the field, 2/4 from beyond the arc. He hit 6 of his 8 charity attempts.
Nine rebounds. Five assists. Three steals. And only three giveaways, at least one of which was a fine pass whose receiver was looking the wrong way.
More important is when Jones harvested those numbers. Which came time and again at critical junctures.
The key one:
IU opened the second half with a 9 nil run to take a 50-46 lead.
Harrell partially stopped the bleeding with a follow of a miss by CJ. But it was matched by a Hoosier tally, maintaining the U of L disadvantage.
Then Jones took over. He hit a jumper to cut the deficit to a deuce. Then hit a trey, pulling the Cards back ahead. For good, I might add.
Then grabbed two offensive boards on the same possession, finishing it with a lay up. Then found Rozier, garnering an assist on Terry’s trey. 58-52.
That’s some kind of carpe diem.
Chris Jones is never going to be Russ Smith. Nor is he going to be Peyton Siva. He’s not quite as crafty as the former, nor inclined to dish like the latter. But, he’s stronger than both, and, arguably, a more consistent shooter.3
To me, Chris Jones’ was last night’s MVP. It shall not be the last time.
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But Terry Rozier and Silent L were close runners up.
Harrell’s made but three treys on the year. Weren’t those all in the first game or two?
You know my point. But allow me to reiterate. He needs to stay under the basket. When he does he can dominate.
I call him a beast under there. Dan Shulman and Mr. V called him a monster. Beast. Monster. Whatever, he deserves his own Marvel comic.
He went for 21 on 10/13 shooting. Seven, give or take a slam, were dunks. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel for Harrell, when he gets the ball within a step of the hoop. Which he did often last night, thanks to Louisville’s best passing/ assist game of the year.
As for Rozier, well, he hit five 3s in 8 attempts, scoring a career high 26 points. Six rebounds. Smoldering D.
Oh, how I love his game.
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One is wont to go down the list and mention all the Cards, after a compelling W like last night’s.
Let me hone it to a few other key contributors.
Mango tallied his six points during one first half burst. But they came during a key stretch, when the Cards, in a three minute span starting with 7:46 to go before intermission, jacked up their lead from 30-29 to 42-31.
MM dominated the moment. Several boards. Several blocks. A couple layups and a jumper. The Hoosiers were measured.
Anas Mahmoud, Jaylen Johnson and Anton Gill were steady subs.4
Now a word or three about Wayne Blackshear.
His most noteworthy stat was woeful 1/9 shooting from beyond the arc. I think it an aberration, a throwaway. My observation is that it’s a technique issue, easily correctable. For some reason last night, he never got square on his long range shots. Thus, he was out of balance. My guess is he’ll see it in the films, and it shall be corrected. I, for one, am not concerned.
He still scored 14 and grabbed 7 rebounds. Plus he garnered 5 assists, while blocking three Crimson & Cream Puff shots. And pilfering a steal.
Blackshear played 36 minutes in the Cards most harum scarum, up and down game of the year, and committed zero turnovers. As in none. 0.
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Louisville was, to say the least, authoritative on the boards, winning that battle by 18.
The Cards’ 52 retrievals were evenly divided, 26 offensive, 26 defensive.
The Cards scored 25 second chance points.
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This Louisville team is going to have a different personality than those of recent years.
Get used to it.
There will be less assists, less fast break points, less scoring help from the bench.5
There will be more D, more grind it out Ws, more less than elegant but still effective grittiness. And, if U of L continues to improve is passing as it did last night, the upside gets higher.
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Cards stand 8-0 on the season, 3-0 in the Big Ten.
The Cupcakes Come to the Yum! Tour arrives again Sunday night with the arrival of UNC Wilmington.
— Seedy K