It being hump day and all, I think it's safe for all of us to start looking forward to this Saturday's showdown with Georgetown. But since I was in California stumping for Hubert Humphrey (I really think he's got a shot now that he's finally broken with LBJ) all day yesterday, I didn't have time to review the big win over Marquette. So before we do anything else, let's hop in the Delorean together and take a quick trip back to a simpler time...Monday night.
It was almost astonishing just how similar this game was to the one played in Freedom Hall two and-a-half weeks earlier. Louisville jumps out to a quick lead, sustains the lead throughout the first half, a floater is made by a point guard just before the break, Marquette comes out inspired and gets within shouting distance, Louisville answers, Marquette does not, Louisville runs away.
It was equally stunning to watch just how ill-prepared Marquette appeared to be to face the same defense it had seen just 17 days prior. There was a small stretch where they were able to get the ball into the middle and then find an open guy on the block, but the kabosh was put on that fairly quickly. The stat lines were also eerily similar: Lazar Hayward was an identical 2-of-10, Wesley Matthews again went 3-for-9 (but again managed to get to the free-throw line consistently), Jerel McNeal again shot between 40-45%, and Burke, Cubillan and Fitzgerald all failed to make a shot for the second time in as many tries against the Cards.
McDonough, Bilas and Raftery is simply the best trio of announcers the four letter network has to offer. Them calling the first session games in the Big East Tournament is added incentive for any fan base to root for their team to win the regular season title (the top seed always plays at Noon).
McDonough's raspy voice was a bit distracting, and indeed made for perhaps the least inspiring intro in the history of televised sports, but he more than redeemed himself by ripping on the creepy ESPN commercials with the little talking heads coming out of people's bodies. This has to be the most ridiculous and disturbing ad campaign since the Dairy Queen commercial where the mother and father shrimp realize they're eating their children (I see it's made a triumphant return just in time to haunt college basketball's postseason once again).
I hate to diminish in any way the gravity of a win that shot us back into the RPI top 25, but Marquette isn't making it to the first Saturday of the NCAA Tournament, let alone the second one. They simply don't have the front court or the outside shooters to hang with teams possessing the athletes to keep their guards from scoring or creating off the bounce.
Matthews and Hayward are improved, and James could bust out of his slump at any time, but this is essentially the same team that got pounded by Michigan State in an 8/9 game last March. Unless they get an extremely favorable draw, I just can't see the Golden Eagles being anything other than one and done.
Marquette came out extremely inspired to start the second half, and if Jerry Smith doesn't stick back-to-back threes then things could have easily gotten a little dicey. I'm not saying the game would have been in jeopardy in the waning minutes, but we definitely would have had to have worked harder to recapture momentum and ebb their confidence.
Both Smith and Andre McGee played well in a game that wasn't conducive to their strengths. Jerry obviously improved on his one-point performance in Freedom hall, and Andre again played great defense, didn't get particularly flustered by the ball pressure, and hit a big three in the second half that really eliminated any possible doubt as to whether or not the Cards were coming home with a victory.
Could I'm Happy And Good At Basketball Edgar be here to stay? Well, considering the fact that Bad Edgar is now locked in my basement along with Bad Miguel Montano and Bad Rashad Brooks, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet.
Seriously though, that's three really solid performances in a row. You just have to hope that those 18 points don't start playing any cruel mind games.
I thought the Tom Crean postgame hand graze and then sprint to the locker room was in poor taste, as did the folks at Cracked Sidewalks.
What is not expected is what happened at the end of last night's game. After his team got smoked on the court from the opening whistle, the conclusion of the game was known for a long time. Man up, shake hands and move on. This is not what happened. Crean shook Rick Pitino's hand, clearly an action that has it's own underlying issues (for another day), but then took a hard left turn immediately across the court and to the locker room. No shaking of the other coaches hands or players.
I thought I was watching a UWM vs Illinois-Chicago game with Bruce Pearl and Jimmy Collins again. It was classless when those two did it, but at least then everyone knew way in advance that both weren't going to palm up. This was different. This was straight out of poor loser/poor sportsmanship 101 text book. When Crean's clubs have beaten Louisville, which has happened many times, Crean has had no problem shaking the hands of everyone on that staff. Now when he's blown out, he doesn't?
Kudos to CC user "Web" for getting both on TV and into Tom Crean's head. If you saw the guy in the black shirt under the basket who was the only person standing after David Padgett took a charge early in the second half, well, that was him. Thanks to some ridiculously sweet seats he also was able to be called "baby" by Derrick Caracter, and give a much appreciated "good half Lee" to Lee Steiden as the boys headed to the locker room at the break. Quite the overall performance.
This was the best game Earl Clark has played in three weeks. You can never know for sure, but I think some of the credit for that probably needs to be sent in the direction of Rick Pitino, who talked about Clark needing to stop thinking and "just run, jump, play and pass and have some fun" after the Rutgers game. Earl was more active, but far from out-of-control, on both offense and defense, and was perhaps the biggest reason Marquette was able to get so little accomplished around the tin. He also hit the boards hard for the third straight contest, something we'll desperately need for him to do again on Saturday.
There was a really nice flow to the game for about the first eight minutes, but then Marquette had two charge/block calls against them, and the home crowd - as home crowds tend to do whenever a block/charge call goes the other way - got agitated, so the crew fed them back-to-back makeup calls on MU's next offensive possession. Things sort of snowballed from there and I don't think we went 30-seconds without a whistle the rest of the night
Just another night in the Big East with Jim Burr and friends. Being a fan of a Big 12 team playing on Big Monday must just be brutal.
On a related note, this was the second straight game where no Caracter fouls were called. I thought Derrick earned all five that went against him. Still loving the attitude though.
Not sure where that free-throw shooting came from, but I wonder if it'll stick around for another couple of months if we say I love you.
This brings me to a question whose legitimacy boggles the mind: Other than Jerry Smith, is there a anyone on the team - who might actually be in the game - you'd rather have shooting free-throws right now than Derrick Caracter? He's hit 23 of his last 25...that's 92 friggin' percent. I mean are you kidding me? This is the same guy who shot a hair under 53% a year ago, and who started this season 18-of-31.
Standing internet ovation for Derrick Caracter. You deserve it man.
ESPN didn't catch one of the best moments of the game, and if Web hadn't been in attendance I likely would have gone the rest of my life without hearing about it. Apparently when Palacios checked into the game for the first time, he forget to take off his warm-up and it took both a buzz from the scorer's table and a word from Earl Clark for him to figure it out.
Have you ever heard a bigger JDP move? I'm so wearing goggles to Senior Day, both to honor the last vestige of a Final Four squad, and to mask the tears of inexorable sadness.
The more I watch Preston Knowles exist, the more I wish he would marry into my family. I don't think I've had more confidence in a player's mid-range jumper since Erik Brown (say what you will about the man, he was money at or around the elbow). I also like when he's on the bench and rocks the stand up, outstretched arms move when a three-pointer is in the air. It's definitely a high risk/high reward move when you're on the road, and that's something you like to see out of a freshman.
Jim Burr games make having a third string center who would start on 70% of Division I teams especially valuable. Farley made two or three tremendous defensive plays, and gave us six big minutes when David and Derrick had to sit. In his own words, he's "just a team guy," and he deserves anything positive that happens to him from here on out.
I'd love to see Jerel McNeal's reaction when he gets a bad grade on a test or an assignment. I'm imagining outstretched arms first, then a mini-right fist swing that turns his body around about 90 degrees, and then a disgruntled backpack grab followed by a brisk walk out out of the classroom complete with half angry/half sad facial expression.
I don't think anyone should be alarmed by the 10-1 run to end the game, but I do think it should serve as yet another example to the team of what happens when you take bad shots. In the last minute both Williams and Sosa took heavily contested shots which, of course, weren't anywhere close to going in and then led to easy buckets for the Golden Eagles on the other end.
Since we've had some trouble in the last two or three minutes of close games this year, why don't we go ahead and treat the last three minutes of every game like it's tight, even if it isn't. If nothing else, your final scores will be a lot cooler.
Have I said sweep yet? Because, sweep.