When with 4:51 to play Andre Wolford rose beyond the arc for yet another trey attempt, U of L was holding on to the most beleaguered of ten point advantages.
The visitors were a hellhound on the Cardinals trail, and the prospect of escaping the Yum! with the most improbable of upsets was very real. You could say the potential of heading to East Lafayette for Tuesday's showdown with Purdue off a loss was flashing before the Cards' eyes.
At that point the Red Flash had been raining -- more accurately reigning -- threeballs on the Cards. They'd netted three of their last four, ten of 19 (53%) overall.
Fortunately the shot misfired, as did Keith Braxton's next one.
Meanwhile Deng Adel, whose outside shooting has been woeful (3/15 including last night's 2/6), drained a long ball with 1:58 for a game-securing 13 point advantage. Jordan Nwora, like he was working with Snoop as one of Marlo Stanfield's lieutenants, power-nailed the door shut with another for a sixteen point lead with less than a minute to play.
Louisville escaped by a dozen, 84-72.
* * * * *
It's not like the Cardinals played a horrible game, though once again they were severely tested by a lesser foe competing without its best baller.
But for two areas of concern, it was a legitimate if hardly exemplary late November performance.
Ray Spalding, whose ankle hopefully was simply tweaked and not more seriously damaged, continued his aggressive play. He had a double double in the first half. 14 points. 10 boards. Along with four blocks.
(By the by, U of L lead the nation coming into the tilt with 9.7 blocks/ game.)
Spalding finished with 19 and 13 on 8/10 shooting.
He was 3/4 at the FT line, and is canning 83% for the season, after he made but 55% last year from the charity stripe.
(Not so casually by the by, U of L as a team has made 66/83 of freebies so far. That charts out to .795. Which makes this squad, so far -- remember, it's early -- the best Louisville Cardinal FT shooting team . . . ever. Keep your fingers crossed it keeps up, Card fans.)
Quentin Snider showed some spark. Though he was only 4/10 from the field, he hit double digits with 11. His back to back treys early in the 2d were energizing, pushing the Cards to an 18 point lead.
(Two Ray Spalding scores pushed that advantage to 22 at the 12:38 mark. A killer instinct awaits to be activated.)
Q also had 6 assists against a lone turnover.
Anas Mahmoud also came to life a bit, taking advantage of his length. He tallied 12, and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Dwayne Sutton and Jordan Nwora were especially effective off the bench.
The Cards moved the ball more quickly and adroitly than they have been.
While that wasn't all that went right for Louisville, that's the cream of the good.
The two areas of concern:
Rebounding. The shorter Red Flash out grabbed the Cards, 35-33, including 12 off the offensive board for 11 points. Other than Anas and Ray, no Cardinal had more than 3.
It's well observed that this U of L contingent has no bangers, so a team effort to hit the glass is imperative.
I am also less than impressed with VJ King's "improvement."
He started out quickly last night, at least on the offensive end. When, after converting a couple FTs, he exited the game at the 12:20 mark, he'd already tallied 10. He did not score again, hitting but 3 of 11 shots, at least five of which were ill advised, forced, and not within the normal flow of the offense. He snared only two rebounds. His defensive intensity and technique remain hidden.
* * * * *
Now comes Louisville's first big test.
Purdue will head into the tilt with renewed vigor. The Boilermakers smacked reeling Arizona 89-64 for its only W in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
-- Seedy K