Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

joaniecardHaving netted a three with 2:31 to play, knotting the score at 56, impetuous Demon Deacon freshman Bryant Crawford, with a neophyte’s hubris, turned to the large and loud Yum! Center crowd, put his finger to his lips, as if to say “Shush.”

A momentary hush ensued.

Twenty five seconds later, the joint was rockin’ again, after an acrobatic driving layup by Cardinal Donovan Mitchell, a rookie himself, stirring the hearts of the L1C4 Nation with his coming out party, which score pushed U of L ahead again for good, 58-56.

From then on, adhering to one of Mr. Bunny’s main hoops aphorisms — “Don’t Relinquish the Lead” —  Louisville giftwrapped tenacious D, a Damion Lee drive & deuce, three Mitchell and two Quentin Snider FTs around a lone Wake Forest charity toss, for a hold steady 65-57 W in the ACC opener.

During that deciding interlude, the visitors missed all six of their FG attempts, including an errant trey by young Mr. Crawford. And five of six charity tosses, including the very same brash Mr. Crawford’s ofer 3 at the line with :18 on the clock.

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It was a darn near perfect victory for this developing Cardinal squad, one which has its fan base, thinking more with each game, “Honey, we better not make any vacation plans for late March.”

Danny Manning’s supremely well-coached squad is young — 3 sophomores and a freshman start — and on the rise itself, with several quality non-league wins. They had won 7 of their last 8 coming into the game. Better for U of L to get this foe out of the way early.

But, there is so so so much potential, and room for improvement.

After an opening half with lovely flow on offense, the Cardinals bogged down when it had the ball after the intermission. Yet again U of L started sluggishly after halftime, giving up six quick points, scoring just a deuce, cutting the margin to three.

Matters bogged down especially with Trey Lewis, he of the miraculous recovery from an ankle injury, at the helm. The Cleveland State transfer too often plays like Chris Jones, at crunch time, dribbling away too much clock to no effect.

As at Kentucky, he committed a perhaps fatal turnover with the game winner still to be determined. The Rick pulled him directly afterward, and put him back on the floor, only after the tilt was essentially in hand with :30 on the clock.

Too much pick and roll, not enough motion O after the break.

The Cards played hard if not immaculately on defense, scurrying about to cover the whole half court. They still gave up four unmolested threes from the corner, but checked and altered any number of others through good effort. And, there was that Shut Down D at the end, which turned the tilt for good.

U of L gave up 12 fast break points, while scoring nary a bucket in transition itself. Louisville was beaten back door several times.

The Cards again garnered only a meager number of assists. Seven on 25 made FGs. (The visitors had 18 on 24 FGs.)

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Last night proved why I pay so much attention to FT %.

In a game with less than usual action at the charity stripe, Louisville hit a respectable 71% (10/14). Meanwhile, the Demon Deacons, hitting 69% for the season, were a game-losing 3/12 at the line. 25% doesn’t git ‘er done. And, one of those was a gift, when Louisville, for the second game in a row, committed a lane violation on a missed charity toss.

WF connected on only 2/10 FTs in the second half.

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Chinanu Onuaku played far and away his best game as a Cardinal.

In the opening half alone, he tallied ten points, snared 9 rebounds and blocked 3 shots. While committing 0 fouls. He finished with 12, 15 and four.

Donovan Mitchell continues to impress, proving himself one of the best backcourt newcomers in the land. His athleticism reminds me of LaBradford Smith (#1 career assists, #1 career FT%), and, dare I venture there, Darrell Griffith. DM is also a baller, as well as athletic.

18 points. 8 rebounds. Two steals. A block. No turnovers.

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An ongoing thematic element in this space has been U of L’s schedule. Starting with last night’s league opener, the remaining slate is all determined by the ACC.

Yet, the Cardinals have been well served. For awhile. January’s road is tough, demanding but not demoralizing. N.C. State and Clemson on the road, Pitt and Florida State at home, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech away.

Then comes some hard travelin’. Starting with the Weekend From Hell, though a cruise down the River Styx is avoided. At least until February. These games are at home.

Virginia on Saturday afternoon. Followed by North Carolina on Monday evening.

Followed in February by a home & Home with the Blue Devils, and trips to Charlottesville, South Bend, Pittsburgh and Miami.

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Two former Champion Cardinals were introduced during breaks.

Stephen Van Treese kissed his significant other and waved to the crowd with a smile.

All-time favorite Russ Smith got a standing O, but was less than ebullient and seemed distracted.

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A quartet called the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood did a stirring doo wop version of the Star Spangled Banner. Loved it.

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This was Wake Forest’s first visit to Louisville to play the Cardinals.

The Demon Deacons were in town in ’62 to play in the Final Four at Freedom Hall. Led by Len Chappell, and featuring a guard named Billy Packer, the Demon Deacs lost to Ohio State in the semis, then beat upstart UCLA in the consolation game.

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Prior to the game, Louisville was #1 in the NCAA in scoring margin, #2 in rebounding margin, #3 in scoring defense, #6 in FG% defense, and #6 in FG%.

— Seedy K

5 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

  1. Russ was more then distracted. Nary a smile or a welcoming gesture told me he didn’t want to be introduced or seen. Can’t figure that one out. Van Treese even stood up to acknowledge the fans.

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