Kenny Payne, are you ready for Showtime?
Coach, come on down, it’s time to play Truth and Consequences.
The Louisville Cardinal regular season commences next Monday against the Retrievers of Maryland Baltimore County.
It is time to put up or shut up, to be frankly a smidge indelicate after last night’s dispiriting L for the second season in a row in an exhi.
Reality is, the Panthers, with their storied history, are probably better than many schools the Cards will face non-conference.
I believe Kenny Payne has a plan, with this season’s upgraded roster. Whether it’s legit and will work is blowin’ in the wind. Only time will tell who has fell and who’s been left behind.
Or, whether University of Louisville basketball is on its way to being relevant again.
The Eye Test is now engaged and not for a trial run.
Before last night’s tilt, I went through the non league schedule. I believe that to approach an acceptable outcome to the season, the Cardinals need to start 8-3 outside the ACC. Including a get back against that pesky rival over on Norris Place, with a coach salivating like a Ralph Steadman sketch at the opportunity for two in a row.
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What I must believe about last night’s game: that KP’s stated plan to see who is ready and who is not mattered more to him than winning the game.
At one point down the stretch, sphincter tightening time, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Ty-Laur Johnson were on the court.
BH-H has essentially shown nothing at all this preseason to indicate he’ll be a positive factor for the Cards. Any factor. When he’s on the hardwood, it’s like the Cards are playing with four guys and somebody they picked up off the sideline for shirts and skins and said, “just go stand over there.”
Ty-Laur Johnson was also on the court. He played with energy. But displayed two traits he hasn’t yet moved on from that KP specifically addressed on Media Day. He was out of control when running the offense. He kept trying to strip the ball from the guy he was checking.
I have to believe that KP wanted to see how they’d react in pressure situations. It couldn’t have been because he thought they were his best options.
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There were several truly disturbing stats, underscoring how Wesleyan was ready and U of L was not.
The Cards were -16 on second chance points. (2-18)
The Cards were -14 on the boards. (33-47)
The Cards were an almost unfathomable -35 off the bench. (4-39)
Neither team shot the ball very well.
At the 7:30 TV timeout in the 1st, the Cards were up — gulp — 12-9. Both squads were 3/18 from the field.
Louisville shot 34% on the night. The victors 36%. Except the Panthers launched 14 more attempts. (61-47)
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There were some positives. True.
The game was a fait accompli with 5:04 left. Panther Kennedy Miles missed the second of two FTs. But Alex Gray snared the rebound, got it to Miles who drained a triple for 53-49 advantage.
Yet, the good part, Louisville though deflated Did Not Quit.
The Cards kept making their FTs.
And Skyy Clark showed his mettle and was almost able to will a victory. He ended with 24 points and 7 rebounds.
U of L was 31/38 at the charity stripe. 82%.
Which essentially kept them in the game. Along with Clark’s play down the stretch.
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Dennis Evans, who started, oddly played only 15 minutes. He had 5 boards, blocked 3 shots (+ a goal tend thanks to Jamie Luckie) and had a steal. He had the only +/- of positive significance at +9.
He did not officially take a shot. (He was fouled on a put back so no attempt.)
JJ Traynor had four blocks.
Manny Okorafor and Koron Davis DNP.
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Oh was I bummed walking out of the gym.
I am a fan first and foremost.
As my stomach was churning, I kept thinking of a distinct memory from the last few years of the Denny Crum decline. Louisville was playing some C-USA schlepper — Charlotte or UAB maybe. The game was nip and tuck down to the wire.
My stomach was in turmoil. My heart was beating triple time.
“I care too much,” I said to myself.
More than a score of years later, I still do.
— c d kaplan