Again, as they did midweek against Clemson, the Cardinals fell into a sinkhole at tipoff, this time in Tallahassee against a legit Top Ten team that wasn't going to fold in front of a rabid Florida State crowd getting itself in shape for Spring Football fervor.
Errant trey. Air ball. Missed layup. Turnover. Turnover.
Meanwhile the Seminoles, ready to carpe diem ("seize the day" for those of you who didn't take Latin in high school), scored on each of its first six possessions, and did so by any means necessary.
2d chance follow shot. Free Throws. Threes. Deuces.
The Cards, playing a second game in a row without PG leader Quentin Snider, were down two TDs after two and a half minutes of action.
To its credit, the Louisville Cardinals, scrappy and resilient, never gave in.
Though their play was rickety at both ends of the court -- inexplicable defensive lapses, rushed shots, a couple players MIA -- the Cards never wavered and kept coming.
But . . . they . . . could . . . never . . . get . . . over . . . the . . . hump.
Soon enough after that opening lull, U of L pulled within three, then fell behind by eight, then cut it to three again, eventually making it to halftime down six, 35-41.
Because of Louisville's gutty relentlessness, and despite some moments when you'd scream at the TV why the fuck did they do that, the game remained winnable until the end.
* * * * *
Three times in the second, U of L cut the lead to a wafer thin digit and had the ball with a chance to steal an advantage.
At the 11:34 mark, Donovan Mitchell finally got off the schneid, going coast to coast for his first score. Seconds later, he drove the hoop again, capping an 8-0 Cardinal run. 53-54.
Deng Adel stole the ball, but with a chance to grab the lead, U of L turned it over. Florida State steadied, pushed its margin back out to six.
At 8:12, oh so steady David Levitch (9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, no turnovers) netted a trey. 58-59.
Ray Spalding snared a board on the Seminoles ensuing trip, turned to bring it up court. But lost his dribble. Turnover.
Again Florida State moved ahead by six.
As the clock wound down, the Cardinals kept coming.
A Jaylen Johnson jam cut the deficit to 68-69 with 2:04 on the clock.
After Leonard Hamilton called timeout, Seminole Terrance Mann missed two FTs.
With another opportunity to steal a game the Cards had no business winning, Donovan Mitchell, experiencing an off day for the first time in several weeks, missed a baseline J.
Time and the Cardinals finally expired. 68-73.
* * * * *
Tony Hicks is obviously a big part of the game story.
The 5th year transfer from the Palestra was able to get the ball to the hoop all day.
In easily his best performance in red & black, Hicks scored 16. He netted a trey. He converted a trio of FTs. The rest of his points came at the hoop.
Is it fair, given all that, to consider what he didn't do? Of course it is.
He garnered but one assist. In the opening half he missed or had his shot blocked four times after a drive to point blank range. In the second half, that happened even more.
Drive and dish, son!
Given his quickness, Hicks was able to get the ball to the hoop all day. Unfortunately he never realized that once he got there he was playing against long and leaping and shot swatting Florida State, not Dartmouth.
* * * * *
Comfortable coming off the bench, mature Mangok Mathiang was magnificent.
Silent K had 13 points (5/6 FG, 3/6 FT), 13 rebounds, an assist, 2 blocks and a steal.
He was a strong and steady force all afternoon.
* * * * *
Hicks, Levitch, Mathiang: They were the Deal for the Cards on this day.
They never quit, keeping the Cards within a measure of Florida State.
Johnson scored 10 but grabbed only one board. Adel had 12 with six boards, but never showed the inclination or savvy to take charge.
To their credit, the Seminoles simply took Mitchell out of the game. Other than that one important flurry describe above, he never got untracked.
Meanwhile V.J. King and Anas Mahmoud were MIA, zeros across on the stat sheet.
* * * * *
Bottom line for me: A disappointing but not fatal loss.
The Cards to their credit never quit.
Losing to a Top Ten league foe on the road without your star PG is not a disgrace.
Suck it up, get ready for the next one.
Pitt on the road Tuesday.
-- Seedy K