There are seventeen new reasons why Terry Rozier has been since last season/ is now/ and shall remain — whether he jumps to The League after this season or not — one of my favorite Louisville Cardinals ever.
That’s how many he tallied in a row, during the second half run when it became mandatory that the depleted Cards keep the resolute, home-standing Hilltoppers at bay.
Before I get to TR’s shining moments, allow me to praise the Card rookie, the fellow about whom The Rick feels compelled to make Egyptian jokes at his every mention.
(Do I take this opportunity to embed a video of The Bangles “Walk Like An Egyptian?” Nah. But if you crave seeing those comely young lasses workin’ it out, you can follow this link here.)
With 18:12 to play in the tilt, WKy had cut Louisville’s once 13 point first stanza lead to a deuce. Nine seconds later, Anas Mahmoud slammed the advantage to four, which he trumped soon thereafter with a couple of charity tosses, pushing the lead to six.
Then the game went to Triple T, a Dick Vitalish way of saying it was Terry Takeover Time.
As Western Kentucky kept coming, Rozier made sure the Cards stayed measurably ahead with this personal run.
Two of two FTs. 39-33.
Another long ball. 47-39.
Then my personal favorite of this sublime interlude. He missed a jumper from the lane, which caromed off to the left of the bucket. Where, following his shot, Rozier had jetted, then elevated for a five foot tip in. 49-40.
1+1 converted. 51-44.
Another from Treyville. 54-47.1
Rozier’s prep school runnin’ podner Anton Gill ended that scoring run, with a three of his own at 6:44 to push U of L’s lead to ten, 57-47.
TR finished with 32 points, five rebounds and three steals. Given his incredible output, he shall not be chastised here for his lack of an assist, and four turnovers.
Mahmoud not only pulled teammate Montrezl Harrell away from the fray which might have gotten the Cardinal star in some real trouble, but he was steady for 23 minutes of action, especially during those moments when Western crept within a deuce early on after the intermission.
* * * * *
As many times as we saw the replay of the Montrezl meltdown yesterday, I went to the tape again several times this morning after.
As Silent L has readily and forthrightly admitted, he lost his cool. It was, of course, a legit call by the refs.
But, Harrell’s reaction was explicable, if not justified.
On a previous possession, he had been elbowed in the jaw underneath, accidentally, while jostling for a rebound. During the scrum that resulted in his ejection, Hilltopper T.J. Price did push him back to the ground as he was trying to get up.2
Anyway, it happens. Given how Harrell admitted his guilt after the game without any passive aggressive statements about the Toppers or the officials, I will be most surprised if the ACC sits him down for Tuesday night’s game.
Other than taking a couple too many threes, Harrell was playing his best game of the year before he was tossed. He’d scored 14 points, grabbed 6 boards, blocked a shot. And made two nifty assists, finding Onuaku underneath on great passes for bunnies.
* * * * *
During the post game show, Bob Valvano mentioned a couple of plays by Hilltoppers, which he described as among the dirtiest he’d ever witnessed. One had to do with a Western player allegedly slamming Wayne Blackshear’s head to the floor, during a scramble for a loose ball.
I paid close attention while watching a replay but didn’t see what Valvano was referring to.
* * * * *
In his post game comments, Hilltopper coach Ray Harper emphasized this, “You can’t beat good teams and shoot 60% from the free throw line.”
Hmmmmm, where have I heard that before?
So, I’m obviously pleased as punch by these numbers. Louisville was 26/30 at the charity stripe, including a glossy 12/14 during the final five minutes + when Western still had hope. That’s 86.7% for the game.
Always a good thing, it was especially important yesterday, when it was obvious the zebras would call it tight after the break.
Given that U of L drained 13/16 in its otherwise unmemorable sleepwalk W over UNC Wilmington last time out, there’s a heartening trend afoot in this regard.
* * * * *
For many Cardinal fans, Wayne Blackshear’s play remains disappointing. For others, his “up and down” performances are an enigma.
My take. If you watch closely, he never stops hustling. He plays intense defense. He crashes the boards. He rarely turns the ball over.3
His long shot is off. As I mentioned recently, I believe that to be a technique issue that will correct.
As for his low scoring totals much of the time, I offer this. Other than the pick and rolls, where Blackshear is stationed in the corner for a possible feed, he has few opportunities at the offensive end. Louisville runs zero sets to get him the ball in scoring position. He can go a whole half without getting an offensive touch. It appears that’s by design, not happenstance.
Which is to say, I’m not disappointed by his game at all.
He is, this guy’s opinion, as we are wont to say, a glue guy. A really good one, you know, like a Gorilla Glue™ Guy.
Yesterday, he grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 3 assists and had one of Louisville’s 9 blocks. And, after Mahmoud walked Harrell out of harm’s way during the first half kerfuffle, Blackshear made sure his counterpart didn’t turn it into a NASCAR type smackdown as between Brad Keslowski and one or both of the Busch brothers.
* * * * *
Anton Gill and Quentin Snider again were steady off the bench.
Chinanu Onuaku was back into the fray, after disappearing for a couple games.
Chris Jones was the third Cardinal to score in double figures, with ten, including some key FTs and a timely trey.
* * * * *
I loved how Louisville pushed the ball offensively the whole game. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Cards never played in slow mo.
I also like the half court trapping defense, which obviously discombobulated the Hilltoppers, who committed 15 turnovers and had 9 shots blocked.
When U of L could have folded, the Cards closed the deal. You know, they bent but didn’t break, never relinquishing the lead from 11-10 on.
Rick Pitino not taking at least several minutes to chat up the local press after the game is unacceptable behavior.
Remember back when U of L started wearing black road unis for the first time. The Cards lost their first five or six in a row before getting a W. That garment choice no longer seems a jinx or impediment. I still prefer red though.
The Louisville/ Western Kentucky series goes back to the 20s, when the Bowling Greeners dominated. It’s now knotted at 39 wins apiece. Yesterday’s ill will on the court was far from the first brush up between the schools. That dates back decades.
— Seedy K