Improbably, as clumsy as Louisville played, falling behind Notre Dame from the tip and never having any control whatsoever over the tilt, the Cardinals still had three legitimate chances to steal a victory in South Bend. It would have been the first time since Ronald Reagan was a Fighting Irish pigskinner, exhorting his teammates from a hospital bed to win one for the Gipper, TDJ and Digger.
The Cards fell behind by double digits early, yet stayed within reach of the Golden Domers throughout, despite erratic, oft ill-advised shooting, and an often stifling defense that still couldn't consistently keep the feisty foes from getting to the hoop one on one.
Yet, with U of L behind but a digit, there was Quentin Snider at the line for a couple FTs with 2:00 to play. He converted one. 68-68.
Then, with 1:20 to play, Louisville again down one, Ray Spalding, the best Cardinal after intermission, had the ball in the circle as his intended target Anas Mahmoud curled to the hoop for a high/low lay up. Ray threw it away.
Finally, with 1:05 left, down three after two more Matt Farrell FTs -- the best FT shooting team in the land was 15/16 at the line in the 2d half -- Deng Adel, who should never, never ever try a move where he has to dribble more than once, attempted to do just that. Driving the lane, he lost the ball.
After which, Steve Vasturia, who looks like pablum is pre-game meal, swirled into the paint for an over the wrong shoulder floater. 68-73.
There went the Cards chances for a victory.
Losing a conference game on the road to a Top 25 team is nothing to be ashamed of.
However, starting league play 0-2 with a road game at vexing Georgia Tech days away is not optimal.
* * * * *
The game was called fairly.
But the Cards lost it at the line. Literally.
Each team netted 25 FGs. The Cards drained two more treys.
Louisville hit 13 of 18 at the line, the Irish were 22/25.
Then again, it might have been something else. Like, cracks in Louisville's vaunted D.
Notre Dame is kinda UVa Lite. Disciplined. Heady. Unselfish. The Irish average just short of 19 assists/ game. Last evening, out of their rhythm thanks to Louisville's defensive scheming, they only had 6 on their 25 made field goals.
Yet, the ballsy Irish, gym rat feisty, drove the base line, curled around their defenders repeatedly to the hoop through the lane, overcoming Louisville's length and athleticism with Thursday Night at the Y panache.
Remember how Luke Hancock with the ball would somehow, through the use of head fakes, herky jerking dribbling and general court savvy work his way for an open shot.
Well, he's whom I thought of watching Bonzie Colson (18 points, 14 boards) scoring and rebounding repeatedly while giving up serious inches underneath, and Farrell (22 points) as he got in touch with his inner Scott Skiles bargin his way to the hoop time and again, and is he old enough to be in college Vasturia (24 points) playing like one of those 4 year old Asian piano virtuosos in a You Tube video reigning in Bach's Goldberg Variations.
* * * * *
Frankly I'm not sure how Louisville stayed so close. (I could watch the replay, but probably won't, given the outcome.)
The Cards trio of double digit scorers, Q, Adel and Donovan Mitchell were 15/43 from the field.
Louisville just kind of gritted it out, staying close despite spotty play. They committed only 11 turnovers, though those late ones were damning. They had 7 blocks and 8 steals.
It was simply one of those losses that come on the road in league play if the visiting team isn't up to extra effort. The Cardinals were not last night.
There's very little to mention for praise. Maybe Spalding's 10 rebounds. Mahmoud's 6 blocks. Perhaps Mitchell's 5 steals.
Mangok Mathiang was a catalyst early when he came off the bench to light a flame under his cold teammates with a follow and a steal. The Cards were +11 when he was on the floor.
And, other than that, well, nuttin' Honey. Except a disappointing but not disgraceful 70-77 league loss to Top 25 Notre Dame.
Next: Georgia Tech in Atlanta Saturday.
-- Seedy K