USA TODAY Sports
The ghost of Jeremy Hazell is silenced for at least another year.
Right up there with mysteriously lingering injuries and non-conference struggles against average Big Ten teams, the inexplicable January Big East clunker has become one of the most eagerly anticipated annual events of the self-hating Louisville fan's calendar year.
Wednesday night seemed to fit the established clunker description: a key player injured, a star player having an off night, a noticeable lack of pep for an extended period of time, oh and the game was being played at the Prudential Center, not exactly U of L's home away from home since joining the Big East.
Everything listed above took place...and Louisville won by 15.
I'm not saying there won't be a surprising loss at some point over the next two months (there probably will be), but I am saying that this Cardinal team is different from any of the ones we've followed in recent memory. They carry themselves differently, they respond to adversity differently, and they have a knack for success that other, comparably talented Louisville teams simply did not. Drawing on the past is a futile exercise these days.
Wednesday night's performance certainly didn't provide any cause for celebration, but the final score ought to have elicited a few knowing smiles.
Louisville's games against Seton Hall have generally been defined by an up-and-down pace and a plethora of outside shooting. Because of this, it was really strange to look at the final box score and see that Gorgui Dieng had scored 16 points and pulled down 14 boards, while Russ Smith had gone just 2-for-11 from the field.
Newark does crazy things to the Cards.
This was a really, really strong overall performance by Gorgui. The M.O. for the Seton Hall big was pretty obviously to be as physical as possible, and Gorgs simply wasn't having it. The biggest example of this - or at lest the example that made this the most apparent - came when Gene Teague easily backed down Zach Price, a bigger body than Dieng, and got a lay-up late in the first half.
Gorgui missed a month of the season and has only been back in the starting lineup for two games...and he's still really, really good.
Seton Hall entered last night No. 13 in the country in made 3-pointers per game. Louisville limited the Pirates to 4-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc and 29 percent from the field in the second half, but Rick Pitino was still fired up about his team's defense after the game.
"They're going to learn to play that type of defense they played in the second half, all the time, or I'm going to kill every one of them," Pitino told Paul Rogers on his Nelligan Sports post game show. "I'm really upset. I'm not happy with the way we're playing defense. The second half is exactly what I expected. But I can't have a heart attack because they're not going to guard. I told them that. . . .
"We were either going to play better defensively or I was going to have a breakdown. I told the guys. You're either going to play championship defense, or you're going to be a Sweet Sixteen team and we can go home and plan for another year. I think they got the message loud and clear."
If Rick Pitino kills Gorgui Dieng, well then I'm not sure I can support him keeping his job.
If you tell me you didn't have a Preston Knowles flashback when Russ pulled up for that 30-footer right before halftime then you're a liar and I'm going to kill you.
Not going to apologize for mimicking successful people.
He only notched three rebounds, but Montrezl Harrell was solid in place of Chane Behanan. He was 7-for-9 from the field, finished around the rim when he had opportunities and scored 14 points, second best on the team.
It's really interesting to watch Harrell play defense now, because you can tell he's starting to figure out what he needs to do, but he's still not entirely sure how to do it. For instance, he'll double in the post at the right time, but he'll do it so recklessly that he's either going to get called for a foul or be totally out of position when the opposing post player makes a move.
The kid's an athletic freak and an absolute workhorse. He's awfully good now, but he's going to be tremendous later.
I tried to keep count of the number of times LaPhonso Ellis said "partner," but it turned out to be far too much effort (stopped at eight). Also, Mike Patrick is not that funny a dude, reel it in just a tad.
What's the verdict on the painfully obnoxious screaming Seton Hall fan? A lot of people referred to it as a woman, but I'm thinking teenage boy in desperate need of better parents.
The game wasn't particularly conducive to his skill set, and he got beaten pretty badly on defense multiple times, but there's no question Luke Hancock hit the two biggest shots of the game. He does stuff like that. Just when all of us are ready to pencil him in for the "minus" section of the game review, he does something to make everyone think, "oh...ok."
I do think he looks the worst in the black jersey, though. I don't have any justification for it either, it's just an eyeball thing. Sorry, Luke.
Hancock's pair of triples were huge, but it was Kevin Ware's back-to-back fastbreak lay-ups around the 16 minute mark of the first half that allowed all of us to retain sanity.
U of L did a tremendous job on reigning Big East Player of the Week Fuquan Edwin, who had just three points at halftime and finished 4-for-14 from the field. The Cards also limited Louisville native Aaron Cosby, who may have been pressing just a bit, to 1-of-10 shooting.
"Do you realize how much we're gonna be on SportsCenter if we're wearing these speedos, bro? But it has to be all of us, bro."
"I don't know, bro. We're probably gonna get dogged pretty hard."
"Bro, we're gonna be f---ing hammered. Who gives a f--k?
"All right, let's do it."
Jim Burr is the absolute worst. It's not even funny to me. Everyone likes to make it a big joke, but this is someone who is really bad at his job, and whose poor work performance can then have an extremely negative and unfair effect on someone else's work performance.
At one pont last night he was literally five feet away form Peyton Siva when he was smacked in the head, and then called a walk on Siva despite the fact that he clearly only took the allotted two steps.
There's really nothing funny about it. The man needs to not be allowed to continue doing what he does.
Wayne had a rough stretch near the beginning of the second half, but played much better when he checked back into the game and the Cards had a comfortable lead.
Regarding Blackshear, I was most disappointed by the fact that he only snagged two rebounds. It's no coincidence that Wayne's best overall games this season have also been the ones where he's been the most active on the boards. He's the type of player where one aspect of his game is going to carry over to all others. Seeing as how being aggressive and grabbing rebounds is easier than knocking down contested jumpers, he should probably make the former a priority early on in every game.
First Half Hendo: making plays, creating steals, being an overall boss.
Seriously, I haven't mis-predicted the result of a Peyton Siva jumper since the Bellarmine exhibition. I'm going to sell tickets to my next game watch.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania. Don't play high.
Overall, it wasn't the game I was expecting to see, but I'm not certain that's a bad thing. Louisville was pushed in its first Big East road game, and responded by utilizing their strongest assets: team defense and creating points off of turnovers. It's what champions in all sports do, and it was encouraging to witness.
Even when a team has individual players who have been around for a long time, you still have a group that needs to experience things together for the first time in order to evolve to its greatest potential. Wednesday night was another first for this team, and I thought everyone handled the situation quite well.