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Renck’s Review: Cards take down George Mason

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NCAA Basketball: George Mason at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The long-awaited first game of this new era has come and gone. While it wasn’t beautiful or perfect, it ended with Louisville getting the win, and that is the most important stat. There will be turnovers, missed shots, and defensive mistakes, but if you can survive those and win, you take it. This first game wasn’t about being ready for the NCAA Tournament. It was about a new chapter starting. A new head coach walking the sidelines. Only the third to do so for the Cards since 1971. The easy thing to do is say that there were nerves early, but talent took over and that is why Louisville won. The coach in me would like to dive in a little further and just give some thoughts on the game. So here we go…

Will Deng Adel be “the guy”?

What do I mean by this? I mean when the Cards are struggling and need a bucket, or there is a close game down to the wire, who do you go to? Who is that guy that demands the ball and says “we are winning or losing this game on my shoulders.” I believe it will be Deng Adel. Multiple players have the ability to go off for 20 points in any given game, but Adel seems poised for more of a leadership role and as someone that will not back down from taking those big shots. He scored 20 points on 9-17 shooting on Sunday afternoon, and for the early part of the game, he was the only player in white that could locate the basket and put the ball in said basket.

His length and athleticism allow him to take someone off the dribble or shoot from deep. It will all depend on who is guarding him. He should have a mismatch of some capacity no matter who is on him, so it is up to him to take advantage of that and for his teammates to see it as well. Late in the game with the shot clock running down, Adel drove to the basket and made an acrobatic layup and hit a big three on the next possession with under two minutes to play. Clutch shots.

V.J. was hunting for shots

It’s one game, so I am not in a panic. But V.J. King certainly struggled on Sunday. I believe that after several minutes of not scoring and hardly shooting, he got the mentality that he was going to shoot the ball no matter what. His first shot came with 14:25 left in the first half. It was in transition and he was just inside the three point line. Anas Mahmoud was in the lane, and there were five other players all inside the three point line, and they play for George Mason. So it was pretty much a two on five shot in transition. Not ideal. I call that “hunting for the shot”, rather than letting the shots find him. He wasn’t getting shots out of the offense, he was trying to force things. That also led to him picking up a charge later in the game.

He also still gets a little lost on defense and doesn’t always make the effort to block out. Last year, he would get taken out of the game right away. If David Padgett is going to let him play through his defensive miscues, he has to return the favor somehow. I am not calling for the benching of King, don’t get crazy, but he needs to put this one behind him and be better next time out.

Freshmen have a longer leash

There was a sequence about midway through the first half where Louisville turned the ball over, then George Mason gave it right back, and then freshman Darius Perry threw a terrible bounce pass that was stolen. It wasn’t great basketball. It probably would have gotten Perry benched in previous years. Not this time. He was able to play through his mistake. The next play he was involved in, he got a steal and led the break, ending with an assist to Deng Adel for the easy basket. That was followed up by his three pointer in the corner when Louisville finally made a little run. Not sure he could have done that from the bench. I am certain he couldn’t.

Transition defense

It seems like when Louisville has Mahmoud, Spalding, and Adel in the game at the same time, they all crash the offensive boards. In doing so, they make the defense vulnerable in transition. They only ended up with seven offensive rebounds to George Mason’s 24 defensive rebounds. The Patriots did a nice job of boxing out, securing the rebound, and getting out on the break. They did not try to slow the game down and walk the ball up the floor. They wanted to push, and had good success with it as Louisville’s big guys were usually under the basket trying to offensive rebound.

Quick hitters to wrap up

-Darius Perry got the memo about wearing #2. You better bring the energy or you will disappoint guys like Preston Knowles and Russ Smith. He checked in with Louisville down 9-8. A few minutes later, the Cards led 19-15. When he came in with 18:21 left in the game, Louisville trailed 32-26. He played the rest of the game and we know what happened. The energy and effort he provides is contagious, and it certainly sparked the team on Sunday afternoon.

-Speaking of, Perry came in for V.J. King at that point with 18:21 left in the game. King never went back in the game. Again, no panic from me. If anything, it shows that the Cards have depth and can win without certain guys playing their best.

-The longer you hear the word “potential”, the more dangerous it becomes, and not in a good way. We can’t have another full season of hearing about Ray Spalding’s potential and what he “could be”. Eventually, he just has to be it. One for six shooting and three turnovers is not it.

-Anas, make your free throws. Thanks.

-Back to Perry because he stole the show for me. On two of his made three pointers, he took off down the court with the ball still in the air. If he misses, you yell at him and ask where he is going. But he didn’t miss, so he looks really cool doing it. Love the confidence, kid.

-Speaking of confidence, Jordan Nwora is not afraid of the big shot. He made three three pointers. The first one was with the game tied at 46, the second one with Louisville up 54-53, and the last one with Louisville up 57-55. Point being, they were all at big moments in a close game. The young man has...moxy?

-There were mistakes. There always will be. A couple veterans didn’t play their best, but two freshmen made names for themselves. Louisville won a basketball game that counted. I’ve got to say it was a good day.