Louisville Card File: Miami

joaniecardIn my excitement over Louisville’s W last night in the balmy clime of Coral Gables, its 4th W in 5 road encounters during its inaugural ACC season, I forgot to stay tuned to WAVE3 TV for Kent Taylor’s piece on ’86 Cardinal star Billy Thompson.

That the station should run a where-is-he-now? segment on the fellow, who led that team to the school’s second national crown, is timely and germane, given the disturbing dynamic playing out this year between a portion of the U of L fan base and senior forward Wayne Blackshear.

Thompson was generally considered the best player in the land, coming out of high school in Camden, N.J.. He announced his college choice on national TV with Al McGuire. The Red & Black faithful had extremely high expectations for Billy T. Which started to wane, during his rookie season, even before he missed a breakaway dunk in the national semis against Phi Slama Jama, a non-score which far too many fans ridiculously felt cost the Cards that game.

Thompson was inexplicably reviled for his “underperformance” the rest of his career. Until, that is, he kicked it in gear midway through his senior campaign, paving the way for that NC2A crown. I specifically remember one fellow who sat behind my father and me at Freedom Hall, who, full of vitriol, as if Thompson was playing bad on purpose just to piss him off, never let an opportunity pass to loudly spew his venom toward BT.

The same type of thing is happening in this, his senior season, to Wayne Blackshear. He obviously is not meeting the expectations of many Cardinal fans, who seem to relish every chance they get to express how little Blackshear does for this team, how “awful” or “horrible” he’s playing, what a “non-factor” he is.

It all seems misplaced to me.

Against the Hurricanes, WB tallied 7 points on 3/5 shooting, grabbed 2 boards, and had 2 blocks. His drive and short J at the 1:50 mark was probably the key score of the game, since it boosted U of L’s dwindling advantage back to 5. His critical, deft deflection in the final minute sealed the game. And, he didn’t even get credit for it in the official box score.1

On a top heavy team, one that features arguably as stalwart a guard tandem as ever suited up for U of L, along with BeastMode Montrezl Harrell — Yeah, that’s right, Marshwan Lynch — fourth option Blackshear is still averaging  a steady 11.2 ppg and 4.7 rpg.

As someone, who is trying to move beyond any nascent negativitude, I checked the stats and pulled out the history books for some long term perspective.

Here’s what the Cards’ fourth leading scorer has averaged for the last five seasons.

In ’13-’14: Chris Jones, 10.2.

In ’12-’13: Gorgui Dieng,  9.8.

In ’11-’12: Chane Behanan, 9.5.

In ’10-’11: Terrence Jennings, 9.6.

In ’09-’10: Jared Swopshire, 7.5.

Checking all the way back to the beginning of the Denny Crum Era, which is, what 43 seasons ago more or less, only eight times has the fourth leading scorer averaged more than Wayne Blackshear is this season.2

Blackshear does play somewhat passively, I acknowledge. From my media day conversations with him before both this season and last, I observe he’s a really thoughtful kid, but one who lacks confidence. Which manifests itself in some games, where he simply doesn’t muster the eye of the tiger.

But, on a team where guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones handle the ball and think score 90% of the time, and where Silent L is inclined to be not so silent both under the boards and firing perimeter shots he shouldn’t even consider, Wayne Blackshear fits.

Wayne Blackshear contributes.

So, one guy’s opinion, Wayne Blackshear does not deserve the spittled enmity he’s getting.

* * * * *

Before a raucous throng of 6,563 — they’ve got different standards for hoops in the Everglades — the Cards opened each half, as if they’d spent too much time in South Beach.

To open the game, there was a throw away, a missed driving layup and follow shot.3

Here’s how the Cards, with a 9 point halftime advantage, played its first five possessions after the intermission. A missed Rozier jumper. A missed Mangok Mathiang layup. A TR turnover. A Chris Jones missed J. A Chris Jones offensive foul.

Fortunately, and thanks to strong Cardinal D, Miami was equally pathetic, failing to take advantage on its first five possessions, the last of which ended, when, ahem, Wayne Blackshear took a charge, allowing Jones to score the first points of the half on the ensuing Louisville set.

It was rocky all the way in the second stanza. Musta been too much sun. Or, too many Mimosas? Or, both?

After stretching the advantage to 13 at 41-28 on a Harrell jumper, Louisville surrendered two straight threeballs to Davon Reed.4

What saved Louisville, as it has all the time during this strange, successful season, was defense. One of Rick Pitino’s best traits as a coach is the ability to fashion game plans that take away the scoring of an opponent’s leaders. He did it again last night. Angel Rodriguez (Who laid 24 on Florida, 25 on Virginia and 24 on Duke in Cameron Indoor) and Shelden McClellan weren’t allowed to get going, scoring but 6 points each.

Given the talents of Rozier and Jones, U of L’s inherent spurtability was again a factor. After being outscored 2-9 by a ‘Canes’ mini-run, cutting the lead to six, and forcing The Rick to call a timeout with 4:52 to play before the break, the terrific twosome answered.

Next three O possessions: Terry Rozier deuce. Chris Jones deuce. Terry Rozier nifty baseline drive. Deuce +1. 30-17, Louisville.

* * * * *

The Cards hit 13/18 at the line, and canned enough FTs late to keep the not quite ready to grab the tilt Hurricanes out at sea.

Blackshear and Jones each committed stupid fouls in the last minute, prolonging the game. Thankfully, they came after Miami’s fate was sealed. But still caused smoke to billow from The Rick’s ears.

I have to believe there’s been a game somewhere along the timeline of U of L hoops, in which only four Cardinals scored. But I don’t recall one.

Not only did the bench tally nil, only Harrell scored among the bigs.

The Big Three was Huge.

Jones: 16 points. 8 rebounds. 5 assists. 6 steals. 40 minutes.

Rozier: 22 points. 6 caroms. 3 steals. 38 minutes.

Harrell: 18 points. 9 boards. 2 blocks. 39 minutes, despite taking an eight count twice, hitting the hardwood after taking unintentional body blows.

How alarmingly top heavy are the Cards becoming?

Onuaku, Mathiang, Gill, Johnson, Aaron, Snider and Mahmoud, not only didn’t make any shots, they collectively only attempted three (3). Other than Nanu’s three blocks, the most noteworthy item from that group is that Shaqquan Aaron, for the first time this season, played without a t-shirt under his jersey.

How one on one are the Cards becoming?

Seven assists against 12 turnovers.

But, but, but, but . . . after another road victory, the Louisville Cardinals stand 19-3, which perches them at a spot, generally regarded by both humans and computers, as the 9th or 10th best squad in the land. U of L is 7-2, alone in 3d place, in the ACC.

Upcoming: Gut check time at Monticello.

— Seedy K

10 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Miami

  1. I presume that you lump moi in as a Wayne-hater. I am not. I think he is a great representative of our University and that he fits in well with our team. My complaint is that I don’t believe he even brushes the extent of his considerable talents, esp’ly against strong competition.

    Last night he scored 5 of our first 8 points and then totally disappeared until the last 2 minutes of the game at which time he thankfully reappeared.

    There is no room at the Inn for another dude that needs the ball. 3 is plenty and probably more than enough. But we have all seen how a complimentary player can excel in such a scenario and that is all that we are asking. Compliment somebody, Somehow. Sometime.

    And then watch this team really take off…………….

  2. One of the impediments to Wayne breaking out, other than any of his own personal traits, is the offense The Rick has installed. TR or CJ one on one. Or, setting up MH. MM and CO never, literally never, touch the ball in the flow of the offense. And Blackshear only gets it early in a set, rarely where he can make a move he’s comfortable with.

  3. He clearly does not feel comfortable in traffic, but when he has seen an exploitable lane, he has shown a great burst to the rim on several occasions. Again, in a congested area he appears reticent to burst/attack which is with what many of us are frustrated.
    As I recall, in Billy T’s (BT will always be Bobby Turner or the BT express to me) senior year turnaround followed overt booing during our home game against LaSalle,hailing from right across the water from Camden. His focus and performance were remarkable after that game and were never displayed better, in my opinion, than aginst the vaunted front line of the Tarheels in Houston

  4. Mr. Joyner: well said! [That’s a “compliment”.]
    As far as you, Seedy K: there are, indeed, many people out there that incessantly disparage Wayne Blackshear. [I personally think it’s a reflection of something seriously lacking in their own lives.] I think it gets downright ugly. I’ve posted on your erudite blog this season that there’s a lot of love for Wayne at our house, always has been. Oddly, however, he does seem to disappear for long stretches of a game, and he’s certainly not beyond criticism. After Wayne’s five points early last night, I was actually thinking of your recent comment regarding “vindication” for Blackshear before season’s end… I hope you’re right. We’re certainly going to need Wayne to make his presence known against UVA on Saturday.
    Although it wasn’t especially pretty, the game at Miami was another very fine win for the Cards on the road. If the Cards can somehow manage a win in Charlottesville, they’ll be in first-place in the ACC! Not bad.

  5. Mr. Kaplan has forbade me from talking negatively about Blackshear in his presence. Perhaps he has not done the same with you guys since we go farther back. So I’ll leave it at this: When UK is one point up on us in the NCAA final and there are five seconds to go and a U of L player has a wide open fifteen footer to win the national championship, I hope that player is not Wayne Blackshear.
    By the way, I agree 100 per cent with Mr. Joyner, and the analogies being made with Billy T are interesting and relevant I think.

  6. Gorgui’s 9.8 is misleading. Yes it can be said 9.8=9.8 but look at it this way. He made a couple of baskets a game with a free throw line jumper. The fact that he could and did make that shot gave our opponents a real headache. Their big guy had to go out there with Gorgui when he went to the high post. And that really opened up the lane for Russ and Peyton to drive to the hoop.

    It was never more evident than in the NCAA game against Duke. We pulled their bigs, Plumlee and Kelly out, and they, slow of foot as they were, couldn’t begin to stop penetration.

    So what I am saying is Gorgui being able to 9.8 from where he could made it easier for the other guys to score. That is 1 + 1 = 3. Synergy.

  7. Blind…thank you for complimenting my request that WB compliment somebody/somehow/sometime on our team. Our house loves and appreciates Wayne, too. ( I am starting to feel a little bit like we have entered into the “appreciation” commercial where the customer and sales person continue to appreciate each other throughout….)

    But that is not the point.

    Wayne has under achieved throughout his career, not based upon his h/s reputation, but instead upon the readily apparent skills/talent that he possesses that he more often than not fails to utilize. Whether this failure is caused by lingering injury; lack of desire; fear of failure or some zen-like quality of inter-earthly satisfaction, I do not know. But he has more talent and ability than he has consistently displayed.

    As for Prof Dave, the last time he agreed with me about anything was after a golf game at Lake Forest when I foolishly agreed to pickup the lunch tab after we fleeced Billy Cooper and Gail P out of money in our regular 18 hole 4 ball. Those were the days……

  8. being the nit-picker that I am, I think we’d all like to see Wayne being complementary to the others. As he is probably as nice a young man as we have heard, I am sure he has always been complimenting his fellow hoopsters. “I” to “E” would strengthen the Cards more than the praise from the “Windy City’s” Wayne.
    I guess I can’t help being wanting things fundamentally sound, whether it is hoops or linguistics

  9. Ah yes Greg, those were indeed the days. You and I could play better then than Tiger can play now!

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