Here we come.
Last night's game was your classic "win anyway you can" situation, but the fact that the Cardinals won in the manner they did was very encouraging. This team has had a problem with taking its foot off the proverbial gas pedal, so it was a little disappointing to see them completely lay down in the last four minutes, especially because the effort level had been so high for the first 36. Still, the good far outweighed the bad Thursday night.
I'm in love with this delayed matchup zone. It's a difficult defense to run effectively because the players have to go man at some points, and the only way to recognize when to do that is by being aware of what the other team is running. The fact that the defense has been utilized successfully in the last two games says a lot about this team's growing basketball IQ, but it also says a lot about just how important David Padgett and Juan Palacios are to this team in ways that may not be overly apparent on the surface.
That was a big-time effort by Terrence Williams, and I'm not just saying that because he only made one field goal. T-Will took good shots all night - with one exception - and if those shots had gone in it wouldn't have changed the way I felt about the game he played.
He played smart, he played hard, and he made the extra pass at every opportunity. Now I'm just worried about his shoulder.
I'd like to state again that my overall feeling about last night's game is overwhelmingly positive. With that said, it was another extremely disappointing performance by Edgar Sosa.
Apparently Walter McCarty had Steve Nash call Sosa this week to talk to him a little bit about attitude and playing the point guard position. Didn't work.
I've never heard a more collective groan from a Freedom Hall crowd than when Sosa tried to go one-on-four in the first half. He checked in, drilled a three, took and missed another one on the next possession - which was OK because it was a good shot - and then grabbed a rebound after a WVU miss and took it to the hole with no teammates to be seen and threw up a hopeless shot. If 19,000 people can recognize that this is an awful decision, then how in the world can you not?
But again, it wasn't his play that was the most concerning thing about Edgar's performance, it was his attitude. I'm watching the game replay now and there's a shot of Pitino about four minutes into the game, and behind him you see an alert David Padgett and a distraught Edgar Sosa looking like he's about ready to cry.
The team obviously recognizes how vulnerable Sosa is, and is doing all they can to keep his spirits up. After McGee was beaten by Darris Nichols for an easy lay-up, Pitino went to send Sosa into the game and grabbed his face with both hands, said something very intensely, and then gave him the biggest ass slap I believe I've ever seen. Also, on the way to the sidelines after every stoppage in play you saw David Padgett go over to Sosa and put his arm around him, desperately trying to get his spirits up. It sort of reminds me of when you're in charge of a little sibling who has just hit his or her head, and you're trying desperately to keep them from those first few seconds of tears because you know after that it's all down hill. "It's OK, it's OK, I used to do this all the time, I used to do this all the time."
Sadly, the team's babysitting techniques don't appear to be working. After being subbed out following a particularly poor personal stretch, Sosa went to the bench and refused to acknowledge any of his teammates' attempts at low-fives, the result being a bevy of unreturned arm slaps.
Sosa still seems to think that this will all change the first time he goes off for 30, and that unwaveringly incorrect belief continues to bring me closer and closer to accepting that this is simply not something that he's going to snap out of anytime soon.
The good news? This team can win in the Big East with Andre McGee playing point guard. It's a statement I thought impossible three months ago, but he's just that much better than he's been the last two seasons.
I know he's been injured off and on since arriving on campus, but Andre's first step this year looks approximately 8.7 times as quick as it did when he was a sophomore. He's constantly beating his defender off the dribble, and he seems to finally have learned that he can only take the shot around the rim when the opposing defender overplays the pass. With rare exception, he's not trying to shoot the ball through people twice his size this year, and that's a big step forward in the evolution of his game.
Add this in with his energy, his newfound commitment to defense, and his improved decision making, and the end result is that we're a much better team when Andre McGee is on the floor than we are when he isn't. He's been the most unexpected, and easily the most pleasant surprise of the season, and he probably deserves significantly more credit than he's receiving right now.
The crowd was as loud as it's been all season, but I'm watching the broadcast right now and it didn't really translate to television. Not positive, but I'm pretty sure this is Digger Phelps' fault.
Earl Clark is now 6-of-37 from three, and I think he's missed all 31 about an inch long. When a pitcher is consistently missing high, he adjusts and aims just a bit lower. If I'm Earl I start trying to hit the front of the rim when I'm open outside. I'm also really cool.
This was my favorite postgame quote: "He talks a lot in the back of the zone," Williams said. "If you're not in your spot, he helps you. He'll even push you to your spot."
Williams is talking about David Padgett and it perfectly sums up just how valuable he is to this team, even when he has about half the physical capabilities he did on Halloween. Padgett's intelligence, leadership and his calming presence on the floor make all the difference in the world for this team, even on nights like Thursday when he's putting up modest numbers.
Joe Alexander has some ridiculous talent.
Juan Palacios has missed one open baseline jumper in four years. I don't think I've ever been more confident in one Louisville player's ability to do something. He's now just two points away from 1,000 for his career, and I think it'd be fitting if the magic number came by way of a baseline J on Sunday.
Just a quick note to anybody who may be sitting in front of me at future games: I understand that you want to put your arm around your spouse because how the hell else is everyone around you going to recognize that you two are happily married (the tiny children are inconclusive evidence), but after you've drilled my knee for the eighth time, could you maybe go ahead and shift to hand-holding? Also, there's a game going on in front of you, it's kind of why you're here.
I'm not sure if Huggins has mellowed or if he was just a little gun-shy after a three-year hiatus. The sweating was impressive though.
Ari Wolffe was in attendance and may have been wearing the biggest pretty-boy outfit I've seen in my entire life, and I have spent some time with some very self-aware males. A skin-tight argyle sweater, insanely gelled up hair, and what appeared to be some expensive designer skinny jeans.
I love the way that Derrick Caracter has started running to the bench and giving everyone high-fives after he's been pulled out of the game for a mistake. I'm sure a lot of this is him trying to show something to the coaches and fans as opposed to a genuine shift in attitude, but he's making an effort and that's fantastic.
After the game, Pitino said something about Caracter's post game that's totally true. He said Derrick will make a really strong move to put himself in a position to score, but that instead of going up strong and finishing, he's trying to finesse the ball into the bucket, and the result is that even when a shot goes down it's catching a lot of iron. Pitino said it was something they'll work on in practice this week, so I'm excited to see how Derrick looks on Sunday.
Jerry Smith rules. You know that attitude and effort are going to be there night in and night out with him, and you can't have enough guys like that on a team.
I know that WVU fans are more football than basketball-savvy, but I've never seen a group of people protest every single block/charge call like the guys behind the Mountaineer bench did last night.
I'm not sure we've had a more clueless referee all season than John Higgins (the one with hair). Joe Alexander jumped up and came down with the ball right in front of him in the first half, and it took Ed Hightower to come from the baseline to make the call. And then after Earl Clark had missed a chance for a three-point play at the line and the ball had obviously been knocked out-of-bounds by a Mountaineer, the referees gathered to discuss and Higgins - who was the closest to the play - said he thought it was a two-shout foul. The ball went to West Virginia.
You're no Tim.
Rebounding: Louisville 39, West Virginia 39. I'd just like to say that the Mountaineers made up a rebounding deficit after the game had already been put well out of reach.
I was not wrong.