State got the tip. U of L stalwart Dwayne Sutton stole the ball from MJ Walker.
Sutton then traveled, turning the ball back over to the home team.
It was U of L’s first turnover of the game. The Cardinals would commit 22 more.
It was Florida State’s first turnover of the game. The Seminoles would commit but 7 more.
Off of those 23 Cardinal here-you-take-its, State tallied 32 points.
Off of those 8 Seminole giveaways, U of L scored 5 points.
So painful is to consider, I’ll allow my readers to do the math themselves.
At the first media timeout, the Cards were up 5 nil on a Sutton trey and a Khwan Fore deuce. But Sutton, U of L’s rock, had already coughed the ball twice more in addition to the one described above. He would end the day with three more, a total of six.
Let me be completely clear here. I am not ragging on Sutton. I am not blaming him for the loss. Heck, the kid hit 4/7 threes, netted 14 points, had six rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. While playing all but one minute of the intense, exhausting OT battle.
My point is it was just one of those afternoons. The reality of U of L’s short bench and short stature were manifest.
Louisville’s other centerpiece Christen Cunningham had the same kind of afternoon.
Twenty points. Seven rebounds. Six assists. Five turnovers. While playing point guard against Florida State’s long and intense full court pressure for all but two minutes of play.
* * * * *
While I am loathe to give Leonard Hamilton any props, given the underachievement of his teams through the years, he fashioned a most effective defensive game plan yesterday. It did the Cardinals in.
State is long, most noteworthy at the guard position.
Terence Mann, who netted 20, is 6-7. Trent Forrest (15 points) is 6-5. MJ Walker (11 points) is 6-5.
Sutton is 6-5, but he plays power forward for the Cards. Cunningham is 6-2. As is Darius Perry. Fore is 6-0. As is Ryan McMahon.
That disparity was significant.
Florida State was relentless. The Cardinals simply wore down.
* * * * *
Given how many easy points the Cards had surrendered because of turnovers, that U of L led 60-53 with just under five to play was frankly mind boggling.
Then they hit the wall. With tired legs and diminished focus, Louisville couldn’t run its offense or maintain its usual intensity. They were outscored 5-12 in that last segment to the buzzer, by which time, they were running on fumes.
In overtime, they were running on empty. Jordan Nwora dropped an easy pass out of bounds after the Cards got the tip. The Seminoles rang up points on their first four possessions of extra time. Six of six at the line, a tip in, and the home team was up 65-73.
Heavy legged as they were, U of L wasn’t without fight. Treys by Sutton and Malik Williams and an old fashioned +1 by Cunningham kept the Cards alive, even though they never could get into their offense.
Florida State had the Cardinals’ measure. It was too much to overcome.
* * * * *
It was a game that illuminated how adversely VJ King’s lack of contribution is adversely affecting the Cards.
He played one minute only, that in the first half. His +/- for that short stint was -6.
What hurts is that King can offer zero respite when Nwora, as he is wont to do, and as he did often yesterday, lopes down court casually, fails to close out on his man, fails to come to a pass his way, or fires up an ill advised shot. When Nwora needs to sit.
Nwora was 0/6 from long range yesterday.
Let me say, as I did about Sutton and Cunningham above, I’m not blaming the Cards leading scorer for the loss.
I am saying there are times when he needs to sit and gather his focus. But Chris Mack doesn’t have that luxury, because King not only is adding nothing on the court, he is subtracting.
* * * * *
The loss, if it exposed some of the Cards’ systemic flaws, isn’t fatal. It came to a Top 25 league foe on the road in February, when good teams should not fall at home.
Yet, with Duke coming to town Tuesday, and victory there unlikely, it was disheartening to let yesterday’s ballgame slip away.
* * * * *
Chris Mack proved yet again how refreshing it is to have him at U of L.
A week after being pissy during a halftime interview with Allison Williams, and apologizing quickly for his on camera petulance, their paths crossed again with the Cards up 31-25 at the break.
After answering a couple of questions, he put an arm around Williams, smiled, mugged to the camera, and referred to her as his good friend.
She loved it. We loved it. It was a sweet moment.
If only if it could have been so at the end of the day.
— Seedy K