Louisville Card File: Northern Iowa

joaniecardFingernails, length intact, remain unbitten.

In an opening round squeaker, the Cards, flummoxed by the presence of a 7-6 Senegalese Anteater aberration, were pushed to the brink before prevailing. While last night in its Round of 32 encounter, U of L took a 14-13 lead it never relinquished over favored Northern Iowa after 8:21 of play, keeping the Panthers measured until midnight tolled for the erstwhile Final Four wannabe from the Mo Valley.

So, prone to frustrate even its most ardent fans, but fortitude rich and full of pleasant surprises, this feisty 2014-15 edition of the University of Louisville Cardinals forges ahead to a Sweet Sixteen date in Syracuse with conference chum North Carolina State.

As one loyalist hummed, as the clock ticked down, the victory secure, “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine.”

* * * * *

That the Cardinals never lost the lead in the second half, doesn’t mean there weren’t moments that increased the heart rate. This was, after all, the NCAA tournament, with the last berth of the second weekend’s games the prize.

So, it came to pass that some Panther other than Seth Tuttle would have to come to the fore, since NI’s leader had been harried out of his game the entire night by Montrezl Harrell & Company. Credit Nate Buss on the stat line with Rescue, Attempted: 1; Rescue, Failed: 1.

Two Buss tallies down the stretch, the Louisville lead narrowed to six, hope glimmered for the Corn Belt faithful, with the score 55-49. The Cards turned it over after the second of those makes, one of only seven floor errors on the evening. Wes Washpun broke from the pack for what appeared would be a snowbird that would cut the deficit to four.

Wayne Blackshear hustled back, altered the FG attempt, for which he should have been but wasn’t credited with a block in the box score, Quentin Snider grabbed the miss, passed to Terry Rozier, who radared the rock to the rim, into the hands of Trez who flushed it.1

57-49. Ball Game!

* * * * *

Let me now praise Rick Pitino.

He has mentored the Cardinals to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth year in a row.

For the first time ever in school history.

That’s right, kids, not even in the halcyon days of the 80s, when Denny Crum’s Cardinals were the team of the decade, were they still dancing this late four straight times.

Lore has it that the current Cardinal coach is at his best when there is time to prepare. Which translates, as the mythos has evolved, to success in the first games of March weekend tournament sets.

Well, good, and correct. Pitino is 11-1 in the Round of 16. And, 43-7 in the NCAA tournament when he’s coaching the higher seeded team. Which he shall be when the Cards face the Wolfpack.

What is to be admired on this day is how the team has gotten to this point.

The effort against Northern Iowa was clearly Louisville’s best of the season. Pitino’s game plan was exemplary.

On defense, the Cards rarely played the same in consecutive trips. Man to man. Straight zone. Switching zone. Man to zone, and back, you know, the defense that Pitino put in the trash can several weeks back because he deemed it too complex for his relatively young squad. But, when used last night, it was even more complicated for the Panthers.

Northern Iowa hit less than 40% of their shots; only 31% from long range, where the Panthers had hit 40% for the season.

On offense, U of L’s flow never abated. Even when Terry Rozier, crafting his best game, was dribbling and probing, it was never without purpose, never stiffling. The ball, for the most part was constantly moving, so too, the players.

It was obvious early on, that this would be the case. During Louisville’s fourth possession of the night, the ball went into Harrell who was posting up. Double teamed, he immediately pivoted and skipped a pass to Blackshear on the weakside, who, checked, just as quickly whipped it to Rozier for a trey.

Pitino, with the aid of Richard the Younger, who was in the house and addressed the squad, crafted a marvelous game plan. Which the players executed almost to perfection.

* * * * *

My favorite stat lines.

U of L committed only 7 turnovers.

U of L was 17/21 at the FT line. 81%. Sweet.

Louisville committed only 7 fouls in the second half, the last couple late. Which meant, for the second game in a row, the Cards played great defense without fouling, and had fouls to give. Which is a Martha Stewart good thing, when you have the lead.

Louisville’s opening two foes shot but 15 FTs.2

Terry Rozier was . . . magnificent, totally in control. 25 points on 8/13 shooting. 8/9 at the line. 5 rebounds. 7 assists.

Quentin Snider was . . . mature, a steady hand at the point. 10 points, including a couple treys. 4 rebounds.

Wayne Blackshear was . . . (as always) my man, doing the little things that spell victory. Including that game saving block. His first FG attempt was a driving layup that rimmed out. Undeterred, he canned a three next trip down court. 10 points. 6 rebounds.

Montrezl Harrell was . . . relentless. Despite having a minor meltdown during U of L’s one wobbly phase, when he missed three shots in a row, two of them ill-advised jumpers. 14 points. 6 rebounds. 2 blocks.

What Jaylen Johnson, with three points, and Chinanu Onuaku and Anton Gill and Anas Mahmoud, with two key FTs, and Shaqquan Aaron and David Levitch did was . . . provide steady, error-free relief.

 * * * * *

I gotta ask.

On that play when Q fouled Seth Tuttle with 2:25 to go before intermission, wasn’t the bang bang action worth a look at the monitor? Tuttles, on his follow through, raked his hand (fist?)across Harrell’s face, dropping Trez to the hardwood.

Given how frustrated the Panther star obviously was, given the level of harassment he was facing, it might have been on purpose. Perhaps not. But, in these days when the zebras rarely hesitate to check themselves at the scorer’s table, it sure seemed worth a consideration.

The only other “controversial” moment was the correct non-call of Terry Rozier’s “over and back,” with two and a half minutes to play.

Panther coach Ben Jacobson went ballistic at the refs failure to whistle, drawing a bench warning.3

The replay showed, however, that, even though Rozier had crossed the mid-court stripe, the ball had not. So there was clearly no violation.

* * * * *

Bottom line: Louisville — let’s be honest here, unexpectedly — joins four of its ACC brethren, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Where, in the Carrier Dome, it shall meet one of those familiar foes, the N.C. State Wolfpack. Who got the better of the Cards 74-65 on Valentine’s Day.

— Seedy K

10 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Northern Iowa

  1. First, the negative. Does anybody else think we got tired in the second half when we went cold? Of course, part of that was Trez trying 12 foot floaters with plenty of time left on the clock despite us having a double digit lead. But still, the open shots that were falling early weren’t even close in those 6 or so minutes.

    Remedy? Even more of JJohnson, The Big E, and QQ? A little less, Trez, Turry, Little E and Wayne, esp’ly in the first half around the interminable time outs….????

    Next game.

    We have a huge advantage on the pine. Having seen NCST. choke last year in Orlando against St.L, if we can get a close game in the last 8 minutes, I really like our chances. Their Freshman, (Abu?), really had Trez’ number in the first game, matching his energy and athleticism and quite frankly, I think, taking Trez by surprise. I don’t think that will happen again.

    I also don’t think we will be pressing full court again against Cat Barber. AT least I hope not.

    If we can rotate our bigs in to tire out Bee J Ana, we should have an advantage in the 5 spot for once. The real problem we face will be Lacy. Too big for Terry and too quick for Wayne. What to do , what to do?

    I am sure Rick will figure something out…

    Go Cards…

    1. “Jalen Johnson reminds me (just a little) of Charles Jones.” Phil, I think you’re onto something. It’s true…

  2. Wasn’t there more flow in the first half when Trez handled the ball less, and when TR probed decisively with purpose. Pitino and Izzo do bring their teams to the dance prepared to boogie, and Rick got as many of the eligibles up to dance as possible. ( I guess they don’t dance in Norway)

  3. objectivity is NOT negativity; As a Cardinal fan I always hope for perfection and not purrfection and realize the perfect game while always a goal has never been played by a team

  4. What Seedy K has failed to tell you is that he, himself, played a crucial part in our victory. For many years my wife and I have been watching Cardinal NCAA games that we did not attend personally at the Hummeldome with a bobble head of Ricky P. overlooking the festivities. The Hummeldome crowd is us, the Hummels, Chuck, Joanie and assorted interlopers. About four o’clock Mr. Kaplan informed me that he was going to watch the game in his pj’s near his toilet and would not be at the Hummeldome. I retorted ‘YOU WILL BE AT THE HUMMELDOME OR ELSE YOU WILL BREAK THE KARMA. THIS IS WHAT WE FUCKING DO IN MARCH FOR U OF L NCAA GAMES. BE THERE.’ And I hung up without allowing any retort. Later he talked to Mr. Hummel and told him a similar tale. But then, lo and behold, about ten minutes before the game started, like some very slow facsimile of Willis Reed, into the Hummeldome strides Mr. Kaplan, looking old and decrepit but properly chastised. The rest is history as they (whoever “they” are) say.

  5. Wayne;s non-block was very similar to that of Jerry Eaves against Kiki in the 80 NC game. Jerry didn’t get credit either but it was a huge play and a major mojo shift.

    And as for Denny not having four consecutive Sweet 16’s, without checking I think you can blame that on U. S. Reed.

  6. US Reed indeed was the fly in the ointment. Given how that team was playing, after a 2-7 start, it might have reached the Final Four in ’81, which would have been four years in a row. Instead it was subregional and done, when Reed’s fling dropped.

    We, who lament that Denny doesn’t get the love we believe he deserves, despite his massive success, must acknowledge that The Rick has done something with U of L that Denny didn’t do. Impressive.

  7. Sweet 16 4 consecutive years vs 2 national championships within 6 years and only 6 final fours; Both very impressive and National Championship still in reach within 6 for Rick

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