Louisville Card File: Virginia Tech

joaniecardYou know it’s really a scrimmage disguised as a conference game when the Sosa play works to perfection.

The reference is obviously to Edgar Sosa, the less than beloved former point guard, who had the annoying propensity to fritter away scoring opportunities, when handed the rock in end of half situations. Dribble in this direction, dribble the other way, to little effect most of the time. Often, the ball would be stolen for negative last first half points.

Though I have no firm stats, anecdotal remembrance tells me the affinity of The Rick to give the ball to his PG with the clock winding down at the end of first halves — be it Sosa, for whom the phenomenon is named, or Siva, or Smith, or McGee, or Jenkins or Northern — works neither as well as the coach would like. Nor as fans, who dissect every Cardinal twist and turn, wish.

It’s supposed to be, I surmise, dribble, drive, draw defenders and dish. Or deliver.

Way more often than not, it’s not delivery, its’ DiGiorno, a cardboard made at home imitation of a pizza. No score. As opposed to a sublime slice of Impellizzeri’s pie, the equivalent of a trey.

But last night, Chris Jones, Louisville’s renaissance PG, tom tommed the ball at the top of the key, while the fans not already heading for an intermission libation sighed in anticipatory dejection. Then, with but a few ticks left before the halftime show now sponsored by a local car dealer, the Memphian throttled into the lane toward the bucket, and, instead of firing some cockamamie, off balance shot toward the rim, zipped a laser to Wayne Blackshear in the corner for a trey.

And a 19 point halftime advantage.

* * * * *

Because Buzz Williams hasn’t been able to work much magic yet in his first season at the helm of the Hokies, the game was a walkover from the get go.

Which allowed Rick Pitino to give his bench some “meaningful” PT.

The pine timers chalked up 78 of the 200 available player minutes, a significant jump over recent activity. The subs actually scored 17 points.1

Noteworthy was Jaylen Johnson’s 6 points and 4 rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

And Shaqquan Aaron’s contribution. Double Q totaled six points on 2/4 shooting from beyond the arc.

Quentin Snider — Single Q??? Q1??? — hustled his way through a bountiful 17 minutes on the hardwood, garnering 4 assists, 3 boards and a steal.

The surprise, when considering the role of reserves last night, is the paltry three minutes of action afforded Chinanu Onuaku. Once termed by The Rick, “the most ready to play of any of the freshmen,” he apparently now resides, not in the dog house, but in the outhouse down the hill and across the stream behind the dog house.

Given that the game was never for a nanosecond in doubt, I remain perplexed that Pitino didn’t give more PT to Aaron and Gill and Nanu.

Then again, a baker’s dozen and half seasons into the Pitino Era, I’m still not sure I understand the alchemy behind his methods. Though the science seems to be working well for the most part, despite my lack of understanding.

* * * * *

What I can observe is that Pitino’s disciplinary action, sitting Chris Jones after Flopgate, has had the desired effect.

Jones is a different player 90+% of the time. His 11 assists last night don’t fully hint at how his game is evolving. The kid can make some razzle dazzle passes. Now it’s up to him and and his mates to get on the same page. He was looking for the assist most all of the night. And, he can still, as we are wont to say these days, score the ball.

* * * * *

What I observe about Mangok Mathiang is that he competes with the eye of the tiger.

If the quality of his game comes close to his intensity, the Cards have a new weapon.

Of course, last night’s opposition wasn’t much, but Mango was primed from tip. Before the tilt’s first timeout, Mango already had four points, two boards, a block and a steal. He finished with 11 and 8 and no turnovers.

* * * * *

If there’s any thing to be concerned from last night’s beatdown, it’s three point defense.

The Hokies came into the game, hitting 40% of their treys on the season. U of L held them to 3/10 shooting from outside before intermission. But, allowed the visitors to can 5/9 after the break.

Okay, for those of you waiting for me to comment on FT shooting, I don’t want to disappoint. After hitting 6 of 7 against Virginia Tech, U of L is 133/175 in its last 9 outings.

That’s 76%. That’s a good thing.

* * * * *

Trez made his best pass of the season.

Early on, he took a high post entry to the top of the key, swirled and immediately fired a bullet to Terry Rozier in the weakside corner. TR drilled the trey for a 7-2 lead.

And, Louisville’s passing overall was crisper around the perimeter than it’s been all year.

* * * * *

Which brings us to the one we’ve all been waiting for.

Duke’s first visit to Louisville, since January ’82, when the Cardinals dismantled the then young Blue Devils. 99-61.

Frankly, the game is shaping up as more interesting than if Mike Krzyzewski were going for his 1000th W Saturday noon. Duke was crushed last night by Miami. In Cameron Indoor. The Hurricanes ran out to a 16 point W, 90-74. The Blue Devils have lost two in a row. The Blue Devils should be angry, and looking to get back on track.

It shall be Big Time Basketball.

— Seedy K

5 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Virginia Tech

  1. More consistent ball movement for sure. Va Tech went out of their way not to challenge any inside shots once the shooter had the ball above chest level (sorry, Trez) and that certainly afforded Mangok an opportuity to gain confidence. Being the nit-picker that I am, CJ’s pass to Blackshear on the “Sosa play” actually found him on the low wing and not in the corner/baseline. I wonder if that somewhat different view of the basket, that excludes the edge of the backboard, makes a difference for Wayne.

  2. Addendum … and it looks like Jaylen may have discovered that he has not in fact been practicing hard. His conditioning is sub-par as he was “sucking air” pretty hard while awaiting free throws towards the end of the game, without playing an excessive number of minutes. For some kids it takes that kind of experience to realize they need to push harder in practice.

  3. I know in the pregame comments on the radio last night, after Paul Rogers praised the leap forward Chinanu made in his stats against NC, Pitino seemed mildly happy with some of the things he did, but said that he wasn’t going to play Nanu and was going with more of a guard lineup against VT to counter the way VT plays. He also questioned the freshman class’s work ethic — with the exception of Quentin Snyder who he said was definitely going to get playing time last night. So– whatever you think all that means. Nanu may be back to start against Duke.

    Ken’s comment about “sucking air” seems to bear out the coach’s comments about the frosh.

  4. Jones should have had 13 assists. Johnson missed a bunny layup (he did get his own rebound and score on a put back but that cost CJ the A). And there was one other play which escapes me when someone missed a wide open bucket again costing CJ.

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