Despite a regrettable but predictable performance, U of L prevailed 79-70 in the hothouse that was Grand Canyon's hostile home court.
Thus it is unlikely, despite its magnificence, that Cardinal historians like myself will long remember DeWayne Russell's career, retell it to your grandkids ad nauseum performance as much as a couple of others I feel compelled to mention. (Because I couldn't stop the images crossing my brain, as Russell stopped and stepped back and popped and swished trip after trip after trip down the hardwood.)
The Antelopes' guard blistered the Cards for 42 points on 14/27 shooting, 3/6 from beyond the arc. He netted 11/16 at the line.
He was en fuego. The Rick was unable to find a Cardinal who could check him. Though for some reason, quick Tony Hicks was again a DNP. Nor was the coach, never among the best when it comes to in game adjustments, able to fashion a defensive triage. So Russell was able to have his way.
Yes, what Russell did was impressive. But it didn't carry the day. The Cards won. Plus Russell was so self absorbed with his game that, at the end when the Antelopes still had a bit of a chance to catch Louisville, he hopscotched up the court for some selfish shots, instead of thinking about a possible W.
The names his game reminded me of:
Roger McClendon. He was the Cincy guard who lit up Freedom Hall for his career high 35, when the Bearcats overcame a 17 point deficit to beat the Cards' eventual national champs 84-82 in January '86.
And, of course, DePaul center Dave Corzine, who went for 46 in the Blue Demons 90-89 double OT win over U of L in the '78 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal at Lawrence, Kansas.
Enjoy it DeWayne. Since his moves are similar to another guard U of L will soon face, let's hope Russell's performance helps U of L prepare to check De'Aaron Fox.
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So lackluster were the Cards, I jotted this note right before the second half tipoff..
"Win and get out of Dodge as quickly as possible."
U of L, which gave up a Russell trey at the first half buzzer to suffer the intermission one down, 37-36, did do just enough in the second to beat the Antelopes, who were without three key players, including conference pre-season POY Josh Braun.
After intermission, Louisville hit 17/31 from the field (54%), and canned 6 of its 8 FTs. The Cards dominated inside with 17 boards to the Antelopes 10, and 26 points in the paint. Plus the Cardinals actually tallied a couple of times on fast breaks. They were ofer the first half in that stat.
U of L's bench continued to be solid in the second, scoring 22 to go along with its 16 point anschluss in the opening period.
The game finally turned when Pitino called his second to last available timeout with 14:16 to play and the Cardinals down, 44-43.
V.J. King found Ray Spalding in the paint for a lay up. Russell parried with a jumper, but King immediately countered with a layin. Donovan Mitchell then scored underneath after an Antelope turnover. Deng Adel stole the ball and took it the length of the floor for a 51-46 advantage. After a Russell miss, Adel hit another deuce. Russell netted another J, but it was answered by a Ray Spalding lay up.
The interlude, a 12-4 run, was aided by a couple GCU goal tending calls. (And an interview with Michael Bush by brittle voiced sideline announcer Kate Longworth.) When Dan Majerle called a timeout to, as we say, stop the bleeding, the Cards had connected on its last seven FG attempts.
Louisville, dominating underneath, kept the Antelopes measured the rest of the way.
Louisville's steadiest play down the stretch came with a lineup that included King, Spalding, Adel, Mangok Mathiang and David Levitch.
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A couple other takeaways.
Donovan Mitchell continues to struggle. Just a slump, which shall eventually abate? Too little body fat, adversely affecting those powerful leaps we saw last season? Lingering symptoms from his "minor" surgery? Something else?
Thanks to GCU's lack of presence underneath, Matz Stockman had his best half/game as a Cardinal. Before the break, in nine minutes of action, MS dominated. He scored 10 points (3/3 from the field, 4/5 at the charity stripe). And three I'm bigger than any of you guys in purple rebounds.
Deng Adel scored 15 on 7/16. But failed to get to the line, where he's money, because, when he drives, he never takes it all the way to the hoop. (Which was also a habit of my least favorite Cardinal ever, Terrence Williams.)
V.J. King, with three key assists on the night, was more than solid, scoring 12 of his 14 points during his seven minute stint after the break.
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The Grand Canyon TV feed had a public access quality to it. There weren't a whole lot of commercials, but we did get to hear the prayer before the national anthem.
Play by play announcer Barry Buetel needs to cut down on the caffeine. Barry, last night's game was not "college basketball at its finest," as you screamed during the second half.
That low angle corner camera shot at one end of the court, which the producer went to incessantly, was absurd. Awful. It made it impossible to decipher what was happening on the court.
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U of L did get out of the ol' west with a W, which is all that really matters at this point, and now has three scrimmages in a row to prepare for the meat of the schedule.
-- Seedy K