Anyone who remembers or has watched a highlight video of the Cards’ scintillating comeback W over ‘Cuse in the ’13 ACC tourney on their way to the national title can confirm: In the 2d, Silent L, a freshman on that championship squad, dunked his way into Cardinal lore, turning the battle into a MSG Monster Slam Jubilee.
He was open at the rim because that gang of Cardinals did what needs to be done to defeat Jim Boeheim’s ever effective zone. Move the rock quickly. Get it to a guy who can pass at the high post. Zip to your spots at the wings, and lurking underneath the hoop for the ball to be delivered there.
Which is exactly what the Cardinals did Wednesday evening against an admittedly lesser Orange contingent than usual.
Malik Williams notched 14 and Steven Enoch 10. Most were tallied point blank on high/low feeds.
Williams, to his credit, was also a beast on the boards, with a team leading 13. He also was the centerpiece on D.
Coach: “Malik’s our biggest energy giver. He’s our best defensive player. He’s a talker.”
The Cardinals rang up a splendiferous season high 23 assists on its 30 made FGs. Which underscores Louisville’s focus and quick ball movement, all thanks to an astute game plan. (Assist: Denny Crum.)
As sterling as those numbers are, U of L probably gave up another 10 or so underneath, mostly in the 1st. Sam Williamson alone found Enoch thrice at the rim for bunnies, but the backup pivot turned it over twice and had his shot blocked the other time. Malik also had an attempt rejected after a nifty feed to him at the cup.
Coach: “I thought Sam made some excellent passes in the first half.
“We squandered away a few opportunities around the basket with our big guys, but they made the most of their chance in the second half.”
So, the Cards’ 30 points in the paint could easily have been 40.
But, thanks to energy, focus, and relentlessness, it was of no consequence in the wire to wire beatdown.
The Cards were up 11-5 at the first timeout, by as many as 13, and still ahead 7 at halftime.
‘Cuse never got closer than that after intermission. Louisville started the 2d steadily, increasing the lead by a deuce after each team’s first five possessions. A 13 zed run pushed the lead to 69-44.
After which, victory secured, the Cards, to Chris Mack’s chagrin, started showboating a bit. Then the game got really sloppy, highlighted by Enoch’s silly T for hanging on the rim, and Nwora’s missed attempt on an uncontested showboat slam. (“Just put the ball in the basket.”)
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Dwayne Sutton had 16 points. 8 rebounds. 5 assists. A block. A steal. His straightaway trey on the Cardinals’ opening possession set the tone. As did his fearsome defense.
Ryan McMahon netted 13, with four assists.
Jordan Nwora was engaged at both ends. He grabbed 7 rebounds. Dished out 3 assists and turned it over but once. My favorite of his plays on the evening was his defensive effort at 49-40 when he cut off the baseline, and forced a Syracuse turnover.
Though it took 18 attempts from the field, Nwora led U of L with 17.
Coach on Nwora: “What I was most pleased with was what I’ve been asking Jordan to do, and that is just affect the games in other areas (than long range shooting), and he really did that tonight.”
David Johnson had 7 assists, while snaring 4 rebounds.
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The Cardinals’ FT shooting was not quite as exemplary as the rest of their game.
The Cards made but 6 of 10 in the 1st, then missed their first two after the half. But finished strong, draining 14 of 17 the rest of the way.
The Cardinals scored only 8 points off 13 giveaways by the outmanned visitors.
U of L trapped more in the half court than they have all year.
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What also stood out in the highlight video of that ’13 Big East W, was how the Cardinals dove for loose balls on the floor, and hurled themselves out of bounds to save possessions.
Those positive attributes were also present in the Cardinals’ hopefully pivotal performance against Syracuse Wednesday night.
When I observed Chris Mack’s revamped starting five of Johnson, McMahon, Williams, Sutton and Nwora, here’s what I jotted in my notes: “CM PANIC???”
Well, it was not only revamped, but refreshed. Proving why Mack’s on the sideline making the big bucks, and I’m over here, serving as a Greek Chorus for pocket change.
Louisville’s leader indicated after the W that Johnson and Williams will be starters as the season moves on.
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Next: F-bombing Roy Williams’ wounded behemoth North Carolina Tar Heels.
— c d kaplan