One of them was mine. The others belonged to you.
“Get back on defense!”
“Cover the perimeter!”
“Damn it, Wayne, put the ball in the basket!”
“Can’t this team get the ball inbounds?”
“What’s with all these stupid fouls? Let the clock run out, for God’s sake!!!”
“Close the deal . . . NOW . . . and get outta Dodge!!!”
Those are just the ones, the censors allow me to print.
* * * * *
Some teams have a personality in place more or less from the get go, and it doesn’t vary much as the season progresses. For better or worse, success or failure.
With others, it takes time for the collective temperament, disposition and nature of a squad — its character — to be revealed.
The latter has certainly been the case for the ’14-’15 University of Louisville Cardinals. That said, the nature of this edition is starting to come into some focus.
Last night, it was on display. Resilience. Devilish inconsistency. Especially in the pivot. Reliance on the Big Three: Terry Rozier, Chris Jones and Montrezl Harrell. Wayne Blackshear’s vexing performance. Little expectation of significant, game changing contribution from the bench.
And the burning issue ever present, the answer to which shall only be revealed six weeks hence: Is this a one and done team, come tournament time? Or, one capable of staying alive, come Dance time, for a second or even third weekend?
Dat’s who dese Cards are. Get used to it, sports fans, it’s a game at a time deal this season.
Louisville stands 17-3, Top 10 in the polls, #12 in Sagarin, #14 in Pomeroy, with an improving offense, a defense that’s wobbling just a smidge, and 11 more regular season battles, the ACC tourney and March Madness left to play.
* * * * *
As frustrating as the Cards’ performance was last night, I thought, all things considered, it was stellar.
Mid week conference game on the road against an unfamiliar foe, the Cardinals were likely to underestimate. Same day travel, into a frigid, snow covered clime. To play in a mostly empty arena.
It looked to me like the Cards legs were a little tired. While the official box score credits BC with zero fast break points, it sure looked to me like the Eagles broke U of L’s press more easily than one would hope, beating them down court any number of times for scores.
Post game, the Rick effusively praised the offensive schemes of BC’s first year mentor Jim Christian, late of Kent State and Ohio U.. Okay, yeah, but it sure seemed like U of L gave up far more uncontested treys than it should have wanted to. I am choosing to believe that the whole same day travel deal was at least partly to cause for that.1
* * * * *
The Cards could never really shake the Eagles.
However, and most important, U of L never relinquished the lead. How many times through the years have U of L fans turned forlorn, during away games just like this, seeing a victory against a lesser foe slip away?
I’ll answer that. Lots.
Last night, the Cardinals always answered, a heartening character trait.
BC, behind 29-20, aided by an ill-advised Trez jumper, then a Trez offensive foul on an ill-advised drive to the bucket, drained three triples in a row, mitigated only by a Chris Jones floater. 31-29. Followed by a nifty Rozier steal and score, allowing U of L to cling to a 35-33 halftime advantage.
The Cards would pull away. The Eagles would climb back. The Cards would pull away. The Eagles would climb back.
A TR trey with 8:06 to go, made it 59-49, allowing a collective exhale by the Red & Black faithful.
Bated breath returned when, but 1:16 of clock time later, the lead was back to a deuce, 59-57.
A three by Rozier, then a couple long balls from Jones, followed by an incredible TR assist for a Silent L slam, kept the Eagles measured. And sapped of enough resolve to prevail.
During which interlude, I jotted in my notes this exhortation: “GET THE W & GET OUT OF TOWN. CLOSE THE DEAL!”
Which the Cardinals did. Surviving a test on the road, for a league W . . . while playing not one of their better games.2
* * * * *
Rozier and Jones. Jones and Rozier. They must be considered as one two headed entity this morning.
51 points on 19/28 shooting (5/7 long balls). 8/13 from the line. 11 rebounds. 7 assists. 3 steals. And only one turnover.3
Harrell had 12 points, 5 rebounds. His jumper is looking more and more like that of a predecessor, Ellis Myles, who didn’t have a jump shot. He continues to fire too many jumpers, many of which come way too early in a possession. Teams are backing off, giving MH free reign to fire it up.
It’s not a good thing.
Unless it makes Trez realize he should just roam the baseline and the scoring ops will present themselves. In abundance.
Blackshear tallied 10, a threeball and 7/7 at the stripe.
Other than that, it’s just the same as it ever was this season. A lone deuce from Nanu, a layup from Q and a couple layups, 5 boards and way too many fouls from Mango.
* * * * *
I like that U of L went small for a bit, playing Trez at the 5.
I don’t like that U of L continues to have issues inbounding the ball against pressure. The worst of that last night came five minutes after intermission, with the Cards up 43-37. They had to call a timeout, because they couldn’t get it inbounds at the offensive end. Then were tied up on the succeeding attempt, getting the ball again on the arrow. Then, still having trouble the next chance, lost the ball on an offensive foul.
* * * * *
I thought the TV production of the game was less than.
Several times they showed replays that ran so long, some live action on the court was missed. Another time, they used a cockeyed endzone corner view that added not a thing to the game. I kinda had to turn my head an angle to watch.
And, as is way too often the case with most announcing crews, Tim Brandt and Dan Bonner rarely advised who committed a foul, or how many that was on the player.
* * * * *
Next up: A chance for redemption at home against the Tar Heels on Saturday.
Caveat emptor: Dickie V will be in the house.
Followed another challenging week on the road. @ Miami on Tuesday. @ still undefeated Virginia, Saturday a week.
— Seedy K