Louisville had been leading from the get go in Blacksburg against the favorite Virginia Tech team, which like several recent Cardinal opponents was minus its point guard, but the higher ranked Hokies were closing in midway through the 2d.
Enigmatic Jordan Nwora missed a point blank shot on an inbounds play — He’d missed from in close twice earlier on fast breaks — then he threw away a bad pass on a set play to an open Ryan McMahon cutting underneath. Which gaffe led to a Hokie trey. VT’s 7-0 run cut the Cardinals double digit lead to just 3 at 41-38.
On the ensuing trip up court, McMahon was fouled attempting a bomb, setting up three charity tosses he’d take after the 11:35 media timeout. So disturbed was Chris Mack with his leading scorer’s lackadaisical focus, he actually subbed VJ King, an unusual 2d half insertion.
McMahon drained the trio of FTs, setting up an interlude Cardinal fans have been waiting for since Dickie V convinced The Rick that this unrecruited, short, relatively lead-footed, tow-headed Floridian hoopster could play at a big time school. An interlude the Red & Black Faithful knew/ prayed would come after experiencing the kid’s long range marksmanship, that Ryan McMahon would morph into Ryan McMoney, that he would rain treys on some not ready for the thunderstorm foe and turn a game from grim to win.
Tech turned it over after that triad of FTs, and RM got the ball ahead of the pack. Nobody really defending him. Nobody underneath to grab an errant shot. No problem. Stop and pop. Boom. 47-38.
Coat-less, vest-less but hard from worry free Buzz Williams called a timeout at 11:21. Yet his guys turned it over immediately. Cue your best Joe Dean: Only 16 seconds later Ryan McMahon string music, Blacksburg, Virginia. 50-38.
Watching any chance for victory wash away, the Buzzman called for another stoppage only 24 seconds after his last call for a respite.
This time, it worked. At least for a moment. A Ty Outlaw three momentarily stopped the bleeding.
But, you know, McMahon was en fuego. So much so that after Dwayne Sutton again found RM beyond the arc, and, watching his mate launch, didn’t even wait until the ball reached the top of its arch toward the bucket, before he turned up court, adopted a quick strongman shrug, and, assured of a bullseye, hollered in glee.
Splash. McMahon’s 12 points in only one minute and twenty three seconds pushed the security to 53-41.
The game was won. Yes, Virginia Tech pulled within single digits late, but still fell for the 15th consecutive encounter with the Cardinals. For the guys in white, another Top 25 W on the road. 72-64.
Oh yeah, using horse racing parlance, it was wire to wire. For the meteorologically inclined, it was a washout. Using Father of Luke shtick, “Which was nice.”
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Dwayne Sutton, who for some frankly inexcusable reason only played 15 minutes a game last season was yet again Louisville’s motor, McMahon’s mcmagnifico 4/5, 5/5, 17 point performance notwithstanding. The DuPont Manual grad, on the hardwood for all but two minutes of action, netted 6/8 from the field, three from long range including that are-you-kidding-me? bank shot for a 66-58 advantage at 1:36. He grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists.
Ho hum, just another day at the office for the “Gladiator” fan.
Christen Cunningham was, also yet again, the linchpin, Mr. Delivery. Six assists, and only one turnover against Hokie pressure. Plus four boards.
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Louisville held the nation’s third best 3 point shooting % team (42%) to 9/24 from long range, many of those coming after the game was essentially out of reach. Meanwhile, the Cards were doing the Hokie Pokie from beyond the arc, putting the right foot in and the left foot in along with 13 of the 27 launched from Treyville.
U of L didn’t make it to the charity stripe in the 1st, as there were only nine fouls total whistled before the break. The team drained 11/12 in the 2d. Get your act together, Dwayne, you were only 2/3.
I loved how, even with a five point advantage in the proverbial hostile environment, Chris Mack was, uh, let us say, peeved heading to the locker room at the break.
But he continues to coach ’em up. Coming but 53 hours after getting knocked to the canvas at home, the Cardinals’ W was sloppy but a thing of beauty.
The road goes on forever in February. The gauntlet continues Saturday in Tallahassee.
— Seedy K