Which is my attempt at some literacy, while being cautious, and offering the following.
Hardly any of the many questions extant with the ’15-’16 Cardinals were answered with certainty in U of L’s opening night 86-45 decimation of Samford.
Scott Padgett’s Bulldogs entered the Yum! with tails wagging, left with those tails between their legs.
What we do know is that Louisville should have battered its lesser foe. And did so.
Expectations for the evening were met. It’s not always been so early on in seasons past for the Cards during the Pitino Era.
All well and good.
The numbers are nice. 30/56 (54%) from the field. 7/15 (47%) from beyond the arc. 19 assists on 30 made FGs. 46-37 rebounding advantage. 9 blocked shots. 9 steals.1
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One truth revealed during the exhibition season, confirmed last night, is that the team is significantly better when Quentin Snider is on the court as PG. The team is more fluid. The sets run smoother on offense.
It’s not that Trey Lewis is a plug. He led the team with 6 assists.
It’s just that there is more O flow when Q’s running the show, and Lewis or Donovan Mitchell or David Levitch or Damion Lee is at the 2.
I’d love to see +/- stats. Unfortunately they aren’t included yet in the official box score.
When Q entered for the first time, U of L was down, 3-4. The Cards were ahead 23-17 when he took a rest. Later in the opening half, he re-entered the game when the Louisville lead had blossomed to 30-19. Then with Q’s hand on the steering wheel, the lead stretched by 8, to complete a 14-2 run.
For some reason, The Rick starts Lewis at the point. The Cleveland State fifth year guy played 17 minutes in the first half, versus 10 for Q. Though the Ballard grad was +13 for the half.2
The eye test tells me what I’m saying is true, that the team is better with Snider on the court, as ringmaster. Why isn’t he starting?
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For better or worse, probably the former, Damion Lee has to get his points.
Shackled with a couple quick fouls, he played only three first half minutes. He had an ofer on the points scored line at intermission.
In the second half, hell bent to get his tallies, he went 5/10 from the field, including 2/4 from three point land, and 2/2 at the line. Which meant he matched frosh phenom Donovan Mitchell as team leader with 14.
Speaking of Mitchell, he blasted off the pine. Within nanoseconds, he drained a three, canned both FTs and slammed one in on a break. Plus he had a steal. Immediately afterwards, he was pulled from the game. ?????
DM was 4/4 from the field, 5/6 from the line, along with 3 steals, an assist and 0 turnovers. Putting him among a handful of Cardinals who have scored that many in their first game.
For some reason, The Rick, when first asked post game about Mitchell’s play, was somewhat dismissive, unimpressed. Hmm. Until he looked at the numbers and sort of recanted.
I was impressed. I am not alone.
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Arguably the most heartening aspect of last night’s performance was the output of the bigs.
35 points. Do not forget how many games last season that the front line (other than Montrezl Harrell) posted a goose egg in the scoring column. Against Samford: 8 blocks. 31 of the 46 boards.
Chinanu Onuaku — according to The Rick, “the smartest guy on the team” — was especially effective. 11 points. 5 rebounds. 5 blocks. And only those 2 early fouls, the second of which was idiotic. He just pushed a Bulldog out of his way, for no reason, away from the play.
Jaylen Johnson went for 8 and 5.
A few words about two front line rookies. I love Deng Adel’s game. Though obviously nervous and pushing too hard last night, he was relentless. He never stopped hustling. Despite the fact that during U of L’s first three possessions of the evening, Adel had two shots blocked, and the ball stolen. DA kept on keepin’ on. He’s a keeper.
Being an observer of all matters Pitino, I note that Coach abided by Adel’s mistakes, leaving him in for stretches, without calling on The Hook.
The big mystery to me was the PT of Ray Spalding, the newcomer The Rick calls “the most talented” of the bunch. The Trinity grad didn’t get off the pine in the opening half, and was on the court for only nine minutes.
Even Matz Stockman entered the game before Spalding. That’s a head scratcher.
As I’ve said before, and shall surely repeat, the Norwegian may be a great kid, but he’s a liability in action on the hardwood. And, unless he goes Robert Johnson, selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads, shall remain so.
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The Cards were relentless, never stopped playing hard. They held Samford to 21% shooting, and forced 18 turnovers.
We like maximum hustle.
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Forty nine fouls were whistled. Many of them would, in former seasons, not been called, or considered ticky tacky.
An officiating point of emphasis, any time a player was impeded, the zebras called it. While it’s going to be tedious for awhile, let’s hope it keeps up. In the long run, it’ll improve the game.
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The peripheral noteworthy positive was less commercials during timeouts.
Which meant more tuneage from the pep band. A good thing.
And more Ladybirds. A really good thing.
Next up: Hartford on Tuesday. Followed by next Saturday’s intriguing noon matchup, a possible trap game with underappreciated North Florida. The Ospreys can play.
— Seedy K