Louisville Card File: Pittsburgh

joaniecardOne of the major tenets of the Lore o’ The Rick is: If he’s got a week to prepare for an opponent, that opponent better watch out.

Thus, the Cardinal nation had eight days a week to see if, in this odd but so far successful Cardinal season, and after a seriously disappointing effort against Duke, that doctrine would hold true in Steel City?

So it came to pass. Against a lesser than usual Panther squad, in an arena where Pittsburgh stood 13-1 all-time against Top 10 foes, but an arena where the Cards somewhat inexplicably are now 4-1.

Make that 13-2 now, Panthers.

* * * * *

There was, as usual, a telling moment. One which would confirm, or not, whether Rick’s Tweaks 2015 had taken hold.

How would former co-captain Montrezl Harrell play? As the Red & Black Faithful watched closely, looking for every nuance, what would be his interaction with teammates? Would he let the game come to him? Would he camp on the perimeter, or underneath where he can rule like few others in the college game?

The answer came three and a half minutes into the tilt, the Cards down 2-4. Trez had already made an iffy pass to Chinanu Onuaku, which ended up in Pitt’s hands. And had missed a dunk on a Cardinal break away.

There he stood, early in an offensive set, as the Louisville swung the ball around the perimeter. With the rock. Just beyond the three point arc. Wide open. No Panther checking him.

Instead of launching, he continued the motion sequence, passing to a teammate. Seconds later, he got it back from Terry Rozier, this time closer in at the elbow.

From which spot, he canned a 12 foot J. 4-4.

Not to extrapolate too much of that early score, not to afford the moment more gravity than it deserves, allow me this observation.

It could be the launching pad for the rest of the season.

OK, just kidding.

Well, kinda.

If Harrell plays like he did @ Pitt, the chances for U of L success improve dramatically.

He only fired two treys, one a desperation attempt, when he had the ball outside with the shot clock near zero.

In the second half, he returned to the form of his breakout game. You know, his second half slamfest against Syracuse in the Big East tourney final his freshman year. Chris Jones got in touch with his inner Peyton Siva, several times breaking the high ball D, driving the lane, and, when the bigs came to stop him, slipping it to Silent L for his signature finish.

Rim rattling, net swirling, iron hanging, face growling, Denny Crum-certified Doctors of Dunk slams.

* * * * *

Such was the impressive plurality of the Cards’ backcourt tandem of Jones and Rozier, that, for a second, I took to pondering this question: Best Cardinal guard duo ever?

Of course, that’s a silly thought. There’s Darrell Griffith and Rick Wilson. Grif and Jerry Eaves. DeJuan Wheat and Al Sims. Caster and Milt. Murphy and Bridgeman. Peyton and Luuuuuuke. Peyton and Ruuuuuuuussssss.

So, uh, despite my momentary delusion, the answer is no.

But, CJ and TR make a damn fine pair in the backcourt, arguably the best in all of college ball this season.

Rozier was essentially unstoppable at the start. He already had tallied 11 on 7/8 shooting at the first TV timeout, along with several assists. At the break, he had 18 points on 8/11 marksmanship. Along with 5 assists.1

The second half belonged to Jones, who tallied 11 points. Including a couple of longballs, one an official Bill Raftery “dagger” at the end of a possession. But, more important, he dished out six assists.

* * * * *

All of which loving adulation doesn’t mask the fact that U of L still needs to get more from the bench.

Anton Gill, Shaqquan Aaron and Quentin Snider only had one official FG attempt, a driving Snider layup.2.

Then again, Mangok Mathiang fashioned his best game ever.

His shooting was, well, perfect. 3/3 from the field. 5/5 from the line. Including a converted +1, during U of L’s 8-0 run after Pitt had scored the first five points after halftime, cutting the lead to five.

* * * * *

It is imperative that I note Louisville’s marksmanship.

71% in the first half (17/24). 59% in the second half (13/22).

65% for the game, the best percentage ever against Pitt at home in the Jamie Dixon Era.

Of course, such Annie Oakley3 bullseye shooting gave me pause to lament the Duke L again. Had U of L just hit its season average against the Blue Devils, the game would have been won. But, you know, coulda woulda shoulda.

* * * * *

One explanation for the Cardinal marksmanship — except that they were simply en fuego — was how the game was called.

Other than the play when Rozier was clubbed across the face while attempting a lay up, an obvious foul that wasn’t called, the zebras whistled every hand check. Which mandated that defenders give a bit more distance to the offenses. Allowing more open shots.

Another explanation is that U of L simply moved the ball better than it has been.

* * * * *

Pittsburgh sure did play a lot more man to man against Louisville than I certainly ever would have expected. Dixon explained he didn’t like how U of L was shredding his zone.

Louisville also played more man to man than it has been, and less of the usually effective man/ zone hybrid D, that I still haven’t figured out.

* * * * *

Louisville was far from the only highly ranked squad to win a tough one on the road in its league yesterday.

Notre Dame fought back at N.C. State. Northern Iowa did the same at Illinois State. Duke went out of conference for a comeback W against St. John’s in a game that, for some odd reason, garnered a lot of pub.

But the Cards win was huge for a lot of reasons.

16-3 on the campaign. It’s a good thing.

* * * * *

Kudos to CBS.

Louisville’s game with its 4:00 pm tip was preceded by IU/ Ohio State. The network started that one at 1:30, allowing some cushion at the end, so viewers wouldn’t miss any of the Cardinal game.

If only ESPN used such sense, in these days of games that are normally running well over two hours to play. So, not only do we have to worry how our team is going to play, but also fret over whether we’ll be able to watch the first ten minutes on the big screen TV?

The irony, of course, is that the Buckeyes W ended at 3:32, so none of the later game would have been missed anyway, even with a 3:30 tipoff.

Seth Davis actually picked one right. During the extended pre-game interlude, he predicted, “The first team to 62 wins. I say Louisville.”

The Cards hit that number with 6:59 still to play, leading 62-44.

* * * * *

Next up: Boston College in Beantown . . . maybe.

If that Mother of All Blizzards set to hit the east coast is half as devastating as the doomsayers are prognosticating, there’s no way this game gets played this week.

Actually I wondered, given the short time between games, if Louisville wouldn’t just travel on to Boston from Pittsburgh? Whether that was their original plan or not, and I have no clue if it was, it appears the Cards scurried back home ahead of the oncoming storm.

— Seedy K

12 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Pittsburgh

  1. A minor (not Greg) pick at your guard combos. Bridgeman and Murphy were only sort of a guard combo. One played guard on offense while the other played the 3 spot. Then when we were on defense they flip flopped. So while they each played guard they didn’t play guard at the same time.

    PS. TR wasn’t the only Card to get hit in the face without a foul being called. Don’t remember who but it did happen and I am not counting Gill’s face possibly fouling the Pitt player’s elbow.

  2. Oh, cbcard, you’re just too picky. Bridgeman and Murphy were guards. Except, uh, for Phil Bond, the MVP of the Midwest Regional.

    1. Junior played the three on defense. And we got one or two easy baskets every game because when the other team played man to man which was the predominate defense of the time their players had a hard time switching from the man who was guarding them and finding either Bridgeman or Murphy. Led to an easy one man fast break.

  3. Troubled by the continued poor ball handling by all except CJ and TR; presses are best attacked with the pass, not having to depend on a guard dribbling through the gauntlet. None of our front court players seem able or williong to make themselves available to catch, gather and turn to find the next player. Nanu treats the ball like a hot potato whether on a pass or a rebound or when gathering a loose ball. Wayne (as is said regionally, “bless his heart”) tries, but again wants to unburden himself of ball handling responsiblity and Trez catch-gather- and turn to locate is pretty much the way he attacks the rim.. ferociously! It was good to see hi spend most of his time not posted up with his back to the basket, but roaming the baeline with a path to Raffery’s “Tin”. Pitt had no length so he was dominant in his assaults on the basket.

  4. Nice win but lets not make to much of it. First Pitt is smallest team in the ACC which allowed MH to dominate inside. This will not happen against any team with even a fair big man inside. Second, Pitt is one of the worst if not the worst defensive teams in the ACC and while it was nice to see the boys make a few open shots lets not make too much of the high shooting percentage. We will find out just how far the Ville has come this week-end and again on Tues. when they visit the Hurricanes where yours truly will be in attendance.

  5. How do you like my boy CJones now? He and Turry are as good as any guards in the CC2A this year….like the Rick says, we are only lacking a third guard to make this position truly formidable.

    Trez played Trez ball and the shots were falling….we were due for a game in which the “numbers” balanced out….hopefully, there is a lot more balancing to be done this year, esp’ly during the tourney….

    Mango played well because Pitt had no beef inside; we can use him more/better if the bad guys don’t have a beefy 5 inside, like Okafor or DJohnson/Towles.

  6. After attending the girls game, where they once again came from way down to pull out another one (by the way I thought miami was the best team to come in here other than Tennessee and UConn) I watched the men’s game. Rozier played a great game especially the first half when he was literally unstoppable. I said to my wife maybe he is special enough to leave two years early. But the second half he wasn’t any better than fifty or so guards from other schools who are also probably thinking about leaving early. Another year would help him, but not as much as it would help the team.
    On another subject, if Todd Grantham leaves for the Raiders we are royally fucked. No tellin how many recruits we will lose in addition to a great coach.

  7. Professor, I’m sure you always admonished your students to stay focused on the topic under discussion.

  8. “Caster” was the best “mid-range” shooter I can recall in U of L history, which , admittedly goes back only to the early 70’s. He was deadly from 10-15 feet.

    1. And strangely enough no one at UofL knew he had that shot when he came here. He was the only player over 6′ on his high school team and wasn’t allowed to play offense more than 5-10′ from the basket. I remember Bill Olsen being thrilled when he found out Lancaster had such a good jumper.

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