A baller who can hit the J, who can get it to the tin, who has the will and talent to take over a game if need be. At both ends of the hardwood.
In this regard, the Cardinal moment I often refer back upon came in Knoxville in ’83. The Cards couldn’t quite catch up with the Cats in the 2d at Stokely. After a Big Blue score, Lancaster Gordon grabbed the ball as it dropped from the net, slammed it to the floor and exclaimed with force and conviction, “Enough of this shit!”
I needn’t explain to U of L fans what Caster and his mates did from then on.
It is this ’18-’19 overachieving but still not-quite-ready Louisville Cardinal contingent in microcosm that Jordan Nwora aspires to be that guy. There are instances when it works, for him and the Cards. And just as many, probably more when it doesn’t.
At the 7:35 media break of the 1st, the Tar Heels iconic transition game had the Cardinals heads spinning. Jay Bilas noted, “it looks like a lay up line for Carolina.” U of L was down 21-34.
Then came this boffo interlude.
Out of the timeout, Darius Perry drained the second of two FTs. 22-34.
Nwora steal. Nwora trey. 25-34.
Cardinal defensive stop. Darius Perry fastbreak three. 28-34.
Carolina turnover. Nwora deuce. 30-34.
Malik Williams block at defensive end. Dwayne Sutton fastbreak triple. 33-34.
From 7:35 to 5:35: Cardinals 12, Tar Heels 0.
Well, not exactly, and here’s where the Truth about these Cardinals outs, where reality strikes with terrible swift sword.
After Carolina stopped its bleeding with a trey, the Cards scooted up court, and Ryan McMahon launched a trey which caromed off the rim.
Well positioned, Jordan Nwora grabbed the orange and was unchallenged at the hoop. But, as he is wont to do, he went for the showboating windmill slam, instead of simply scoring the ball. He didn’t.
Carolina soon did. 33-39.
VJ King, fashioning easily his best, most aggressive, most assured performance of the year, netted a deuce to cut the deficit to 35-39.
After another U of L stop, with Carolina back on those tarred Heels a bit, Nwora immaturely went hero again, jacking up a trey early in the clock that Jay Bilas correctly proclaimed, “the worst shot of the game.”
What then followed was a second chance tally by Carolina, a Nwora giveaway, and another score by the Baby Blues. 35-43.
The Cardinals’ moment had passed, their undoing mostly self-inflicted.
The Tar Heels were clear.
* * * * *
The last two nights, the extent of Louisville’s stay in this season’s league tourney, were a realistic snapshot of just who these beloved ballers are.
Good enough to take care of business against a decimated Fighting Irish team that really hasn’t a clue.
But not ready to compete with the Big Boys. Competent enough to give #1 or #2 line North Carolina a bit of a fright, but not enough so to close the deal.
That’s just the way it is.
Understand Jordan Nwora is not the only guy on this team who shoots too quickly in a possession, who makes decisions that have you shaking your head, who too often cannot simply make the next right play. He had plenty of company last night. As he has all season.
* * * * *
But, yes, despite the 70-83 setback, there’s good news.
Dwayne Sutton was All-Glue again. 14 points on 5/10, 4/9 shooting. Six rebounds. Four assists. A block. Defense. Tough tough tough for the 34 minutes he was on the court.
VJ King, as mentioned, just seemed more confident. 9 points. 3 boards.
Still maturing Darius Perry scored 10 points, snared three rebounds, handed out three assists and notched a steal..
Malik Williams battled on the boards. Thirteen rebounds. 13. Most in the game, red or blue.
Louisville, outmatched and outwitted, never quit.
Most salient, most heartwarming for these overachievers and the Red & Black Faithful who follow them, six o’clock Sunday will arrive with dance cards in hand.
— Seedy K