There are some in which an opposing player or coach is never mentioned. The focus is on U of L, it’s development toward March, etc, etc.
But, so out of character is this North Carolina program, I feel compelled to make mention of them at the top, then I’ll move on.
These Tar Heels are inept. There’s simply no softer word to describe them. Given the history of the program, its successes through the decades, it’s just weird. There was the outlier of the short-lived Matt Doherty era, when the team went from #1 to 8-20 to 17-15 in three years.
But this is gosh dang Roy Williams, and whatever you think of him — set aside that his players might have been taking Legos 101 in the classroom to stay eligible — he can recruit and coach and win national titles.
But that team in baby blue at the Yum! yesterday was awful. Yes, they were down two players, including Garrison Brooks, their second leading scorer/leading rebounder, and still reeling from that loss to Duke, but . . . geesh. Who were these guys?
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Which brings me to the matter at hand, the 23-5 (14-3) University of Louisville Cardinals, who somewhat fell prey to a disturbing tendency, as is said in the biz, to play down to the level of their foes.
The Cardinals started yesterday’s encounter like this: Turnover. Turnover. Offensive foul/turnover.
Louisville was mired in the muck.
At the first media timeout, 4:04 in, the score knotted at a scintillating 3-3 with nary a two point attempt yet made by either team, U of L had given it up four times, the visitors, three.
At the 11:19 stoppage, when the Cards had pushed ahead 13-9, the turnover total had reached 10, evenly divided. But neither team had been able to capitalize, each scoring but three off the gaffes.
The glamor and excitement of big time NCAA basketball between two of the game’s most storied programs in the World’s Most Spectacular Arena, this was not.
The game was U.G.L.Y..
But, after a Malik Williams trey pushed the Cardinals up 10-7 at 13:23, U of L, despite a herky jerky, so so effort, never relinquished the lead, keeping the Tar Heels measure the rest of the way.
Louisville steadied a bit, fashioning its first turnover-free segment between the last media breaks, though there was no increase in their advantage, the score going from 20-14 to 27-21 at 3:35.
After which timeout, Roy Williams, obviously as out of sorts on the sidelines, as his players between the lines, adopted a most dumbfounding strategy against a Cardinal team coming off an evisceration of Syracuse’s vaunted zone.
Williams went zone. Dwayne Sutton immediately drained an open three. Returning to a man to man, the visitors stopped the Cards on a possession, scored, then — Are you kiddin’ me? — went zone again. While heads were being scratched, David Johnson found a wide open Williams on a high/low feed for an uncontested slam.
32-23. Which dunk was the beginning of a 17-0 Cardinal run, spanning halftime, that sealed the game once and for all.
Fresh Kimble scored on a breakaway, then again on the Sosa play as the clock ran down on a pull up J.
Up 36-23 at the break, the Cards tallied the first 11 of the 2d. Sutton deuce. Jordan Nwora fastbreak layup. Nwora FT. Nwora threeball. And another Nwora bomb.
47-23. It was time to start texting friends to see where to meet for pizza after the game.
The Tar Heels’ failure to score during that 7:47 resulted from reasonably solid Cardinal defense, along with a big helping of Carolina incompetence.
Though there was a moment of mild anxiety before the 7:20 commercial break. Cole Anthony netted long bombs on consecutive possessions, cutting the Cards advantage to 16, at 57-41.
During which break, Williams, obviously ready to get this campaign over and get to the golf course, pulled his only real option Cole Anthony from the lineup. I mean, really?
The Cardinals closed the deal with Malik Williams dominating underneath, and David Johnson reminding us old timers of Jim Price, posting up his defenders around the bucket.
72-55 was the final.
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Steven Enoch has apparently joined Josh Nickelberry and Aidan Igiehan on the IL. At least temporarily. An injury, said to be slight, kept his PT to 4:49 Saturday afternoon, with 0 points and 0 rebounds.
Malik Williams more than took up the slack with 17 points on 8/11 shooting. And 9 rebounds. Which total on the boards was matched by Dwayne Sutton.
Jordan Nwora snared 11 off the glass, also leading the Cards in scoring with 18.
David Johnson tallied 9, and dished out 5 assists. Which dimes were just about counterbalanced by 4 turnovers, three of which coming in the tilt’s first seven minutes.
Louisville’s FT shooting was again less than good. 7/11 (65%).
Louisville did eventually capitalize somewhat on Carolina’s 17 giveaways, scoring 18 points off turnovers.
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The regular season has now hit the top of the stretch.
The rubber meets the road Monday evening, as the Cardinals journey to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in a battle of significance for the regular season ACC crown, and tourney seeding, both ACC and in the Dance.
— c d kaplan