So eery was U of L ‘s performance in Saturday’s 62-77 meltdown to Clemson, so fragile does this Cardinal contingent’s psyche seem to be given the context of the last several seasons underlying the reality of this past week’s road trip from hell, it was good to hear these words from second season headman Chris Mack.
On the immediate past: “It’s my fault. I have to figure it out. We as a coaching staff have to figure it out. Generally, it looks like we’re not playing for anything. Really frustrating. But it’s my job to figure it out, and I’ve failed so far.”
On the immediate future: “I don’t have all the answers right now. I just don’t. It’s my job. We’ll watch film. I’m going to have a lot of one-on-one conversations, and we’ll figure out a way to be better against Syracuse on Wednesday.”
Though not the centerpiece of the David Padgett-coached team that choked up a “sure win” over UVa season before last, the core of this squad was there then and wilted last season against Duke, then staggered to the finish line, beating only hapless Notre Dame twice while losing the other six of its last eight.
The watchword of the offseason was “Finish.” Finish workouts. Finish practice. Finish games. Finish the season.
During the ten game winning skein that was shattered Wednesday last against Georgia Tech, the Cards seemed to be doing that. Finishing. Several of the victories were close calls, when Louisville was the steadier, more focused, better executing team down the stretch.
It seemed as if this experienced U of L edition had conquered that bugaboo.
Yet, lost in the glare of the glamour of that string of Ws was that the Cardinals had fashioned the streak against ACC’s lesser lights. With the exception of Duke in Cameron Indoor, of course. And a weaker UVa squad than usual, but a still formidable one. Plus a few of those victories were scary nailbiters.
Also somewhat taken for granted was Louisville’s outside shooting during that run, over 45% from beyond the arc in over 200 attempts. Reality is that was not going to continue.
Which brings us to the very unsteady, unpleasant, generally inexplicable present. A no show in Atlanta against Georgia Tech.
And whatever that was yesterday when the Cards were manhandled by the Tigers.
Before tipoff Saturday, astute color announcer Jordan Cornette spoke of Louisville’s “evident nonchalance” against Tech.
Then the game started with ACC/ National POY Jordan Nwora on the pine.
The home team scored on its first five possessions without missing a shot, forcing Mack to call a timeout, with U of L down 5-12.
Soon thereafter, the deficit had increased to thirteen points at 5-18.
Louisville never cut the margin to single digits the rest of the way.
Former Cardinal Luke Hancock at the half: “Clemson’s just winning.
“Clemson’s out-toughing the Cardinals.”
It wasn’t like Louisville wasn’t making an effort, it was just that there were no results. The Cardinals grabbed 7 offensive boards in the 1st, but only had 4 second chance points. While the home team tallied 11 off U of L’s five turnovers. And 12 in the paint to the Cardinals’ 2.
After scoring only 14 points in the 1st, U of L showed more life in the 2d. But was still a ghostly shell of the team that had become one of the darlings of the national media.
After making only five of 32 FG attempts before intermission, 16%, U of L converted 19/37 (51%) after the break. But allowed Clemson to connect more readily on 13/23 (57%).
The Cards showed some zest midway through the 2d, cutting the Tigers’ once 20 point advantage in half. Then Clemson spurted away again, and for good, hitting three wide open treys, when Nwora, David Johnson and Malik Williams failed to close on the shooters behind the three point line.
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To accentuate some positive:
Dwayne Sutton scored 18, and snared 7 rebounds, and was ever relentless.
David Johnson had 12 points, grabbed 6 off the glass, and dished out 8 assists without a turnover.
I thought Malik Williams battled as best he could, scoring 9 with 4 boards.
Nwora battled on the boards in the 2d.
Since it was ranked Top 5, Louisville’s loss was prominent on the ESPN crawl. But it was not the only Top 25 squad to lose on the road to an unranked foe yesterday. Auburn went down at Mizzou. Seton Hall fell in Providence. Illinois was conquered at Rutgers. Houston went down at SMU.
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We will learn soon enough what this ’19-’20 edition of the Cardinals is made of.
Louisville has hit critical mass.
Syracuse and the Tar Hells come visiting the Yum! this week.
Will Louisville finish? Or, will they fold?
— c d kaplan