Regardless of the sport or the level at which the sport is being played, you're never sure what to expect from a team in the game immediately following an extraordinary occurrence.
After "The Miracle on Main" (Comeback in the Yum...Back), there was plenty of reason to be worried that this team would come out a bit flat against a solid, if not particularly sexy, opponent in St. John's. Instead, Louisville used its best five minutes of the season as a springboard to its most complete 20-minute performance of the season.
We mock - and rightfully so - most of Rick Pitino's bold labels and blanket statements, but I do believe him when he says that this is the most mature and level-headed team he's coached. It's certainly the most down-to-earth group he's had here, and Wednesday night was a textbook example of why. Mature teams snowball positive energy into even more positive energy (my review of Many Lives, Many Masters is coming tomorrow). Immature teams lose focus after success and don't get it back until faced with the resulting adversity.
The group handled what happened in the last five minutes against Marquette in the best possible way, and the result is that Louisville is 4-1 in the Big East and quite possibly playing its best basketball of the season.
The face of this "these guys are mature" theme has to be Peyton Siva. After spending the entirety of the 24-5 run against Marquette on the bench and hearing his head coach defend him from fan criticism, Siva responded by playing perhaps his best game of the year against a team that made it obvious it wanted to pressure the ball.
The adorable Samoan (Samoarable?...We'll work on it) finished with ten points, ten assists, seven steals and just two turnovers. With one exception, he attacked when he needed to attack, and made the simple pass when it was the better option. Seven steals speaks for itself.
When No. 3 is playing like this, we're a pretty tough match for anybody out there.
The biggest negative of the night was Terrence Jennings not being able to lace up because of a hip injury. Pitino said Tuesday that Jennings had the best practice of his Cardinal career the day before, and of course he was highly instrumental in Saturday's comeback. TJ is, according to Pitino, out for two more games.
Individual bubbles for practice. I'm telling you, it's not as impractical as it sounds.
After his 25-point performance on Wednesday, Preston Knowles now needs just 184 points to become perhaps the most unlikely 1,000-point scorer in the history of Louisville basketball. Louisville has 14 guaranteed games (13 regular season and at least one in the Big East Tournament) remaining, and PK would have to average a little over 13 points per game over that span to achieve the feat.
This was Rick Pitino's 800th career game. Just, uh, just thought you all might want to know that.
If there were a runner-up for the title of face of this "these guys are mature" theme (and there should be) it would be Chris Smith.
Smith has been getting some serious recognition over the past couple of weeks, most notably in this piece from NBC.
Junior guard Chris Smith is Louisville’s third leading scorer (9.5 ppg) behind Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva. Smith also leads the Cardinals in three-point shooting (48.6 percent). But Pitino didn’t even know Smith, the brother of Denver Nugget J.R. Smith, was coming to Louisville. Assistant coach Steve Masiello mentioned Smith was considering a transfer from Manhattan — but Pitino never gave it another thought.
"In August he was out there shooting with Samardo," Pitino said last week. "I really just thought it was Samardo’s friend and I didn’t even introduce myself to him."
When Masiello asked if Pitino had said hello to Chris Smith, Pitino replied, "Who’s Chris Smith?" Pitino quickly realized the error of his ways and went back to the court to greet his new player.
"And that’s the way he showed up," Pitino said. "I never had a conversation with him on the phone, never spoke to him, never spoke to his family. He just showed up one day and he was here. Thank God he’s here, or I would be in a lot of trouble right now."
Smith responded to his first real taste of national love with a nine-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance in which his growing confidence and aggressiveness was on full display.
In all, 33 of Louisville's 24 made field goals were accompanied by assists.
The official word from Kenny Klein and the training staff was that Stephen Van Treese was suffering from cramps. I thought that's what it looked like at first, but the treatment he appeared to be receiving placement of the ice packs were odd. Here's hoping it was just cramps because SVT was another guy who was in the midst of giving a really solid all-around performance. Aggressively grabbing (and not swatting) rebounds, being in the right position on defense, finishing in transition; this is an SVT I can get on board with.
Steve Lavin's hair is slightly better than Gene Keady's hair...you know, only by outdated classical standards.
This was the first time the Johnnies had faced a true pressing team, and it showed in the form of 25 turnovers. They don't have a true point guard and had been letting Dwight Hardy (a career two-guard playing the role of Taquan Dean) handle the duties. If you're going to see a press for the first time, you'd rather it be Seton Hall at home than Louisville on the road.St. John's is going to make a real push for the NCAA Tournament, but this was a baptism by fire.
Not sure how I feel about Marra in a suit.
Love the Gleason/Valvano combo. I'm seriously considering adopting Gleason as one of our own. He's like the one out-of-town kid who at some point during sophomore year of college has become a member of your inner-circle of hometown friends. No one's quite sure how it happened, but everyone's good with it.
Ms. CC's George fever is out-of-control. Of course she spent the bulk of the game on her computer, but that's only because "George plays better when I'm not watching."
Showed her this picture and she instantly went from being in a bit of a mood to starstruck. The following exchange then took place (read her part with a Central Kentucky twang).
"Email that to me. Oh my. That's gonna be my new background. He's just so...and I told you he didn't have a gap in his teeth."
"He's wearing a mouth-guard."
"Only because his teeth are so perfect that he doesn't want to mess 'em up."
In a related story, I'd leave her for Preston Knowles.
OK, if you date me skip down to the next mini-Cardinal head right now.
Jeff Goodman can't believe Louisville fans are this excited over the development of Gorgui Dieng's mid-range game. It's the development of Gorgui Dieng's mid-range game!
He can also block shots. Unless you're Paris Horne.
Three NBA scouts were in the building. Looks like Tim Henderson is definitely coming back for his sophomore season.
Not the best night for The Bullet, but it's The Bullet, he'll go home, shower, throw up five-hundy a few dozen times in the weight-room, shower again, hop in bed, remember that he's The Bullet, and all will be good when he wakes up in the morning.
Apparently J-Bone was so bad tonight that someone hired Suge Knight to do thy bidding.
FACT: J-Bone is 3-foot-8.
I love this team. Not a selfish m'fer in the bunch.
vs. St. John's (1/19)
AT Providence (1/22)
vs. DePaul (2/5)
AT Rutgers (2/22)
vs. Providence (3/2)
vs. Marquette (1/15)
vs. No. 21 West Virginia (1/26)
AT No. 23 Georgetown (1/31)
AT No. 25 Cincinnati (2/16)
AT No. 21 West Virginia (3/5)
A Win is a Steal
AT No. 8 Connecticut (1/29)
AT No. 16 Notre Dame (2/9)
vs. No. 3 Syracuse (2/12)
vs. No. 8 Connecticut (2/18)
vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh (2/27)
The Yum vs. The Dunk on Saturday.
Odds that Joe B. Hall: 1) Knows what a blog is. 2) Has heard of Card Chronicle. 3) Has visited Card Chronicle. 4) Just read "The Yum vs. The Dunk" and knew exactly what I was talking about.
This is getting pretty fun. Go Cards.