Well, if you’re a University of Louisville Cardinal or a Red & Black loyalist, UPS, a major local corporate citizen, can get the hoopsters off the team charter plane at ATL, when all the airport gates are closed.
Which allowed the same day traveling Cardinals to get to the gym on time.
Not that the Cards seemed bothered early on.
Looking crisp and none the worse for wear, U of L tallied on four of its first five possessions. Deng Adel drained a trey first trip down the hardwood. Following a Donovan Mitchell miss from beyond the arc — one of only two on which he didn’t connect in 7 attempts for three — Anas Mahmoud canned a deuce, Adel dropped another bomb, followed by Q trey.
That 11-3 Cardinal advantage improved to 16-3 with a few ticks less than five minutes gone.
The Cards moved, passed the ball, played exemplary shutdown D deflecting the balls all the way to Varsity Hamburgers parking lot and hit the floor twice going after loose balls.
Then the bottom fell out . . . offensively anyway.
In the next 7:11, Louisville’s only tally was a Mitchell FT. The interlude included a total drought of 6:10, until Anas hit a deuce with 7:15 to go before intermission, for a 17-9 advantage.
No reason to get out your abacus, I’ll do the math for you. While the Cards were tallying only that one FT, they held the Ramblin’ Wreck to just 6 points. Tenacious D cures many ills.
After that opening flurry, the tilt turned into a slog. After scoring that quick 16, Louisville only netted 11 the rest of the half. Tech scored 18 total before halftime, the Cards, 27. U of L didn’t score in the last 2:47 of the opening period, GT for the last 2:01.
Which is to say, Louisville’s ongoing offensive inconsistency notwithstanding, the Cardinals continue to excel when its foe has the ball. Can I get a Hallelujah?
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Meanwhile, also before the break, Adel took an inadvertent blow to his head, causing a concussion. They way he wobbled off the hardwood made it look serious. Time will tell.
His absence provides a major opportunity for the Cards’ Golden Arches All American V.J. King.
He did not rise to the occasion in Atlanta. King, short on his shots, was 1/7 from the field, often forcing ill advised attempts when better ones were available or teammates were open. He grabbed only one rebound.
I’m disinclined to ever emphasize anything negative after the Cards win a conference game on the road, regardless of the opponent. (It is always nice to see Josh Pastner directing traffic on the opponent’s bench.)
But, while I’m here, a couple things.
Jaylen Johnson was nowhere to be found. Figuratively. Literally.
So below par was JJ’s game, The Rick only played him 8 minutes, even inserting Jay Henderson for a couple less than exemplary minutes to end the opening stanza.
On Johnson’s first three possessions, he committed a silly foul, traveled, then committed another foul.
Then there’s that little obsession of mine: free throw shooting.
U of L made only 10 of 20.
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Louisville essentially, thanks again to defense, kept Tech measured the rest of the way.
Except for a sleepwalking interlude midway through the second half, when the lead was cut to 43-40. During that time, the Cards pushed Tech pivotman Ben Lammers onto the Wooden Award Watch List.
(Lammers take charge moment elicited the only worthwhile TV commentary of the game. After one of the Techster’s big plays, announcer Tom Wermer intoned “Big hitter, the Lammers.” Somewhere Carl Spackler was smiling.)
A second chance Quentin Snider trey stopped that bloodletting. After another Lammers two, U of L took charge once and for all with a Mitchell three, two Q FTs and a Mahmoud running hook for 53-42 lead at 5:28.
Tech was toast.
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My favorite Cardinal of the game was Ray Spalding.
12 rebounds. 6 points. Lots of D. Lots of deflections.
Q had 7 assists to go along with 12 points.
Donovan Mitchell was only 1/8 inside the arc. But he was 5/7 beyond it. 4 assists.
Mangok Mathiang was also steady off the bench. 7 points. 6 rebounds. 3 blocks. Loved one of his offensive moves, actually twirling to the hoop and putting ball on the floor, to give the Cards a 24-13 lead.
Anas was credited with only 2 blocks. One would think they’d do a better job of adding at a famous engineering school.
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All in all, except for Adel’s injury, it was a fine afternoon. A conference win on the road is always — always — to be savored. Especially when it gets the Cards off the schneid in the league.
Next: The Cardinals open a three game homestand with Pitt on Wednesday.
— Seedy K