Two DePaul Days in less than a month is sort of like someone paying to extend your weekend in Las Vegas by a couple of days. It's an offer you can't pass up because you know there are memories to be made, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still all just a little too much. Before the experience is even over you're ready for a return to normalcy.
It was another great celebration, and I couldn't be more thankful for the elegant DePaul Day china set (you shouldn't have, Aunt Jane), but I'm ready to get back to the real world and a closing stretch void of games Louisville is guaranteed to win.
I realize an overtime victory wasn't exactly the sexiest way to get there, but the Cards have now guaranteed themselves of the .500 record in Big East play that many didn't think was possible a little over a month ago. I'm not saying this is cause for celebration or declaring the season a success, but knowing U of L is playing for its NCAA Tournament seed is a lot more fun than thinking up combinations of how it can get to nine league wins.
We may not be where we want to be, but thank God we're not where we were.
Obviously, this would have been a fairly disastrous loss for Louisville to take at this point in the season, but since the Cards pulled it out we're allowed to lead with the positive.
The biggest takeaway from Saturday for the optimistic fan was the fact that U of L ran some new offensive halfcourt sets and had some success in doing so. It wasn't breathtakingly smooth, but it was effective when it had to be.
With Peyton Siva in foul trouble yet again, Rick Pitino opted to go away from the ever-familiar high pick-and-roll in favor of some new sets that would get the ball into the hands of Kyle Kuric and the Smiths. The result was the welcome sight of some halfcourt buckets with the game on the line, all of which came from the previously mentioned trio (read Eric Crawford's Sunday column for a better understanding of what the Cards were looking to do).
The lack of diversity in Louisville's halfcourt offense has been an elephant in the room for weeks now, so seeing something new and watching it be at least moderately successful - even though it was against DePaul - was encouraging. There's still no question that Siva and his ability to penetrate are going to be the primary cogs of the offense going forward, but this late addition of variety will make preparing for U of L that much more difficult, and it also gives the Cards some options if Peyton is in foul trouble or not having one of his better nights.
I thought this was easily Louisville's worst defensive performance since the Providence game, which was extremely disappointing.
The Cards have done a good job of preventing dribble penetration for most of the season, which was why it was so surprising to see the top of Louisville's zone consistently unable to keep Brandon Young and company out of the lane. I know there was extra focus on defending the perimeter since the Blue Demons made ten threes on D Day I, but at some point you have to start worrying a little more about stopping the guy with the ball in his hands.
U of L was able to limit DePaul to 6-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc, but Young hit 8-of-9 two-point shots and he and Jeremiah Kelly were able to penetrate and make relatively easy finds on their way to ten combined assists. Both those guys are fine players, but it's not exactly the type of backcourt duo that should be having that level of success against a Louisville team that, more times than not, wins with its defense.
The other big thing was DePaul consistently throwing over the top of the press and beating us down the floor for easy buckets. It was something that Oliver Purnell had obviously game-planned for, and twice out of timeouts the Blue Demons threw long and got lay-ups. There were also multiple instances where Louisville was beaten back after Cardinal scores, and allowed DePaul to pick up a quick equalizer. That's two games in a row where this has happened a handful of times, and that has to stop. You can't hand opponents buckets via lack of hustle or focus when you're a team that's prone to offensive droughts.
Safe to say Russ Smith is DePaul Day King for this year, as he followed up his 25-point D Day I with an 18-point performance that included the two biggest baskets in overtime. It was a classic Russ afternoon in that I'm pretty sure he shot 100% from the field when he wasn't squared up and 0% when he was. The transition three he hit to put us up for the first time in the second half was one of the more bizarre Russ shots of the season, which is obviously saying something.
Also, Pitino shaking his head after he made the second of his back-to-back buckets to start overtime was a top five moment of the Rick/Russ relationship.
A Rick and Russ reality show might be my biggest dream right now.
"Rick's a fiery head coach with a Hall of Fame resume and a love for fundamentals. Russ is an underdog recruit from Brooklyn with a knack for letting shots fly from anywhere. Put them in the same gym and who knows what you're going to get! Catch Rick and Russ every Tuesday night at 8:30 right after Mike Marra's Project Bench on the Card Chronicle Programming Network."
That wasn't as funny as I hoped it was going to be when I started writing it. Did you get that Project Bench was supposed to be like Project Runway? Yeah, I didn't think you would. That's my fault, not yours. The rest of this is going to be better.
The picture was good though, right?
Friend shattered a remote control when Kuric was on the ground with the ball and lost it when trying to hand it to Gorgui at the beginning of overtime. It wasn't the least DePaul Day thing I've ever seen (that honor might belong to the Twitter mentions I was getting during the first half), but it was up there. Let's just say we had a long talk once the game was over.
The best part about the whole sequence was a couple of minutes later when we were up four, and he finally broke his silence with, "Ok, if we win I'm not gonna be mad about the remote." I mean this thing hit the stone in front of our fire place and just exploded. Probably the road game viewing moment of the year in my book.
Can't adjust the sound if you want to watch a movie downstairs fot at least a week, but honestly I think it was worth it.
If Russ Smith is DePaul Day King, then I think our own bythesidewalk (aka, Kay) has to be the Queen, as several of you have sent me pictures of her and her DePaul Day sign.
I'm so, I'm so, I'm so, I'm so proud of you.
While shattering a remote control out of anger was one of the least DePaul Day things I've ever seen, AllState Arena having lighting trouble that delayed the game and allowed the starting lineups and the local children's choirs' incredibly awful rendition of the national anthem to be broadcast live couldn't have been more DePaul Day.
It really is a special day.
Pitino said he went with the smaller lineup for most of the second half because it was the one better suited to put points on the board, but you have to think Chane Behanan's illness had a lot to do with him playing just 20 minutes and attempting only one shot. He just didn't look right, and apparently said after the game that he was far from feeling like himself.
Also, the foul call on him at the end of the half was one of the more frustrating moments of the season. It was a huge four point swing that would have had me on the verge of extreme overreaction against any other opponent.
My best friend lives in Chicago and was able to catch the team leaving the arena after the game. Two stories stand out from the experience: 1) Him telling Russ "good game" just as Russ was walking out the door, and Russ actually coming all the way back inside to thank him (they really don't love you like I love you, Russ). and 2) An elderly woman attempted to get to Rick Pitino but was stopped by a security guard. Pitino told the guard that it was Ok, at which point the woman unexpectedly gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which Pitino naturally reciprocated before thanking all of the fans once again. People may have their issues with his personality, but Piitno's always been really good with stuff like that.
Said friend also blackmailed me to post this picture of him and fellow Louisville transplants, Jon, Clint and Corey with Denny Crum.
Could have at least gotten me a clear shot if I'm going to make you famous, but whatever. This is why you're banned.
Also, we could talk about how cool Denny is for three years straight and it still wouldn't be long enough.
I was surprised that DePaul allowed Kyle to get so many looks from the outside, although a handful of those did come off of loose ball situations where players were scrambling and out of position. Purnell went with the expected game plan of having defenders shadow KK and Chris Smith, and it worked extrmeely well for a long stretch in the first half. Then, as we talked about earlier, Pitino flipped the script in the second 20 minutes and part of the result was a team-high 25 points for the King.
Kuric again drew Piitno's ire for his poor effort on the glass, and was benched to start the second half because of it. He finished the afternoon with just four boards, but did have three big steals.
Kuric's rebounding issues are perplexing, because it seems like he's often in good position to grab defensive boards, but then simply reaches for the ball instead of jumping. The guy's athleticism is obviously not an issue, which makes the habit even that much more difficult to understand.
Still, he's been about as clutch as possible in recent weeks and is obviously getting hot at the perfect time for this team.
The only other thing Kyle did that I didn't like was pass the ball when he knew DePaul was going to foul at the end of regulation. It almost seemed like we were trying to get the ball to Chris Smith, which is strange since he's had his struggles from the line in late-game situations before. Maybe it was an order from Pitino to try and get Chris' confidence up. All I know is Kuric's the best free-throw shooter on the team, and if we're in that situation again I want him holding onto the ball and making sure that he's the guy going to the stripe to ice the game.
You can't prove that Rick not wearing a tie wasn't a message to us that he's aware of DePaul Day.
You can't do it.
Kicked in the Nuts Gorgs: Bottom ten.
It's nothing to laugh about (yes it is), but I'm not sure I've ever been as happy to see someone drilled in the balls as I was when I saw that replay, because it was proof that the injury wasn't anything more significant.
Good, if not great, all around game from the Gorgster, who did a good job at remaining a shot-blocking threat despite being in foul trouble.
Also, there was no doubt that he was going to shoot the ball when DePaul went zone after Pitino criticized him for lacking confidence in the wake of the Syracuse loss. He did not hesitate for a second even though he was well-guarded, and ended up getting a friendly roll. The fifth foul call on him in overtime was absolutely absurd.
Speaking of absurd calls, how about Russ Smith being called for traveling when he was still dribbling the ball? Russ's back was to the official who blew his whistle, which made the call that much more ridiculous. The action taking place directly in front of him made the violation he asserted literally impossible.
Just another Saturday in the Big East.
Second best moment of the day: Marra three goggles before Kuric had even let the ball go.
I enjoy Healthy Mike as much as the next guy, but let's all make sure we truly cherish and appreciate the time we have left with Bench Mike, because it has been and is going to be special.
A link to all the stories I post here is automatically sent to the Card Chronicle page on Facebook. I hardly ever get on Facebook anymore because, well, it kind of makes me hate people, a feeling which I'd rather not have. It's a life-choice that couldn't have been more validated when I noticed the comments underneath the "Louisville Breezes to Victory" post.
And it went on and on.
Nice to know that the people who "like" Card Chronicle don't actually read Card Chronicle. I'll hop back on the Book when I need my next sonogram or engagement photos fix.
This was a quietly solid game for Peyton Siva that was overshadowed by the fact that he was again in foul trouble. The three from the corner was the most confident stroke he's had all season, he had six assists to just two turnovers and he was a huge asset on the boards, coming down with six rebounds.
Still, the wild slapping at the ball simply has got to stop. There's no question that he knows how important he is to the team, which makes the midcourt collisions and wrist slapping of driving guards that much more difficult to comprehend.
On the flip side, I love that Peyon has added a dribble to his free-throw routine. I don't think any of his four attempts touched the rim. Larry O'Bannon is the only Cardinal I've ever been comfortable with not dribbling before free-throw attempts.
Cleveland Melvin is awfully good, and guys like Crockett and McKinney are only going to get better. DePaul has led at the half in five of its last six Big East games but hasn't won any of them, an obvious sign of a young but talented team. The Blue Demons are better than their league record shows, and they're not going to be the same walk-overs they've been after this season...well, at least for the rest of the conference.
Almost feels weird not having a quick turnaround game on Monday, but I'm good with it. That Monday night to Saturday afternoon wait is pretty brutal.
Love that Chris Smith took nine 3-pointers, even if he only made two. Where he really hurts us is when he passes up the open look, takes one dribble and then passes the ball back to the top, forcing us to reset the offense with a short shot clock. He made some poor decisions when he got into the lane, but he simply has to keep driving if defenders are going to fly at him on the perimeter. This team needs playmakers outside of Siva and Russ, and Chris still has time to improve in that regard and be a threat off the bounce come March.
I really liked that Pitino laid into Wayne Blackshear for passing up a 3-point attempt early in the second half. If Wayne is going to be a guy who helps this team get to that next level, he has to regain the same scorer's mentality and confidence that made him one of the top recruits in the country. That means you can't pass up an open look just because you took a shot and missed it on the possession before.
One of my hopes for Saturday was that it would be an opportunity for Wayne to play 25 minutes or so and build some confidence, but obviously the way DePaul came out and played didn't allow that to happen.
Still, I'm calling a big Wayne performance on Thursday. Don't ask me why.
Not the DePaul Day II we all envisioned, but sometimes bad teams play over their heads on the same day good teams don't. The important thing is that the necessary plays were made in order to prevent our eventual tournament seed from being badly damaged.
These are the weeks we spend the rest of the year looking forward to, guys. Let's all make sure we enjoy this.