Your scribe had a really clever lede with an intention to use.
Footnote: It was actually suggested by my former editor at the Cardinal, Smart Guy, with whom I watched the tilt, but it will have to wait for another day.
Seems here the only thing that really matters at this juncture of a throw away season is the future.
So, that’s the focus in this game report of yet another U of L defeat, this time to Notre Dame in South Bend, 62-76.
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Let’s start with Manny Okorafor.
Who has been on the team — actually in the States and on the entire continent — all of ten days or so.
Briefly the stats, though that’s far from the most impressive aspect of his Louisville debut.
In only 18 minutes of action (3 in the 1st, the rest after the break), he tallied 8 on 3/5 shooting. He snared a team-leading 5 boards, including three attacking the offensive glass. One of which came on his initial score for U of L, when he missed his shot, but followed for a deuce. 2/3 at the line, and a block. Plus several leaps and lunges that caused Irish misses close in.
His first impressive moment for me came early in the 2d, and because of a teammate’s failure to recognize the situation, did not inure to U of L’s benefit. Manny posted up strong and deep in the post. Had his defender walled off with his butt. Hands held high for the easy pass from the wing. Which never came from the “experienced” mate with the rock.
Another time he was again properly posted up, got the orange but was double teamed. Didn’t panic. Immediately turned and reversed the ball with a skip pass to an open Cardinal in the weakside corner.
He ran the court. Was always active and engaged. Seemed to energize the team.
Not sure exactly how Coach Kenny Payne and staff discovered and closed the deal on this kid. But good on them. Small evidence sample obviously, but the operative word: Upside.
Manny Okorafor looks like a keeper.
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Next for mention is Fabio Basili.
Last time I paid attention to him was a game or two ago, when a look to the U of L bench revealed a totally disinterested Basili, his eyes wandering up into the crowd.
I am advised he has been in KP’s doghouse. Because of a lingering immaturity — he’s young emotionally and should be a HS senior — and his propensity to not even run the plays called in practice.
All his 12 minutes of action came in the 2d.
Basili was alert, engaged and under control. His game was measured.
When he received the rock open in scoring range, he fired. He netted 2 of his 3 longball attempts, and didn’t drive foolishly into the lane. No turnovers. 2 assists, both to Okorafor. A steal.
A week ago, I would have wagered he’d be among the number of current members of this season’s squad that won’t be on next year’s.
Now, not so sure. It appeared, again a conclusion from a small sample size, that his coaches have fostered a change in attitude. Baisli has potential.
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Mike James continues to plug away, showing incremental improvement in judgement and play.
Leading the way with 14 points on 6/8, 2/3 marksmanship.
Kamari Lands, as up and down as he’s been, looks like another keeper. At times anyway. He seems to lack confidence, which fosters impatience. When he’s assertive, he is effective. 3/3 from the field, 2/2 at the line.
* * * * *
The macro view of Louisville’s performance was familiar.
Turnovers on the first two trips down the court. Falling behind by double digits less than ten minutes in. Another giveaway and ND runout handed the home team a 46-24 lead at the break.
-22 at halftime.
Which soon enough wilted for Louisville to a -29 disadvantage at 29-58.
Smart Guy and I started talking about my nifty new wallet. (You thought Corey Alexander and partner “Dougie Fresh” were the only ones supposed to be paying attention because of professional responsibilities whose minds were wandering. We also chatted about how often we see Roger Ayers calling games. During which diversionary conversation my pal offered that Ayers stopped calling fouls because he had to catch a plane out of O’Hare to call the St. Mary’s game at BYU tonight.
But then this not good Cardinal team did what it does. Not Quit.
Only four giveaways after the break.
U of L ran off 14 in a row. Mostly with an odd lineup of Basili, Lands, Okorafor, Hercy Miller and Jae’Lyn Withers.
No mincing of words, these Cardinals are not a good basketball team. It is distressing.
But only in one or two of their many blowout Ls have they thrown in the towel. They keep playing, which is a testament to the players and their mentors.
A low bar to herald of course, but something nonetheless to appreciate. At least by this diehard.
* * * * *
Love noon games.
Love the game only took 1:45 to play.
Hate the outcome.
Feeling more hopeful about the future.
— c d kaplan