My take on U of L's 102-59 scrimmage walkover of Bryant is being posted later than usual, is shorter than usual, and, given all the circumstances, less incisive than usual.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, hold your guffaws on that last revelation.)
There's a legitimate reason.
I was not in attendance last evening. A good pal hosts an annual holiday dinner for a bunch of his buddies. And, after due consideration of the bad karma that might be invoked if I passed on the Cards home game, I went for the bon homie and taped the game.
Other factors included in my decision were that Bryant, a school and squad I frankly had never heard of, is a horrid team, now 1-10; and that, thanks to my pal's generous hospitality, the holiday dinner was at le MOO.
Dry-aged bone in highest quality prime red meat, or a sure Cardinal rout?
I went with the former, and watched a tape of the game the morning after.
(What I had to deal with personally, was the strong memory of passing up a home game in 70s for a Neil Young/ Linda Ronstadt concert at Louisville Gardens. A bit too "experienced" for the evening as happened back in the day, I ran my car into another at 2d & Liberty. My first thought, after realizing my companion wasn't hurt and we weren't going to get busted, was "this is what you get for missing a home game." So, having broken my vow last evening, I'm happy to report that the Cards survived, dinner was sublime, great conversations were had, I got home safe and, as I've been for a good while now, sober.)
* * * * *
David Padgett continues to mature as a coach.
It's obvious he's getting tougher, and starting to figure out what he needs to figure out.
When Darius Perry forced up a shot in the 1st at 23-17, Padgett did a Rick impersonation, grabbed Q by the jersey and pushed him to the scorer's table to replace the freshman.
In the second half, when the Cards were cruising, he left starters in longer than expected, so they'd continue to get a feel for what it's like to play in rhythm.
When Lance Thomas drew a T, DP didn't pull the rookie, but simply called him and the team over for a lesson. (Thomas, by the by, was the 2d half MVP. 10 points on 4/5 shooting, 7 rebounds, a block and a steal.)
Here was the second sentence out of the coach's mouth at his post game press conference:
"I thought VJ King played an outstanding game. I know his stat line wasn't crazy impressive, but he did a great job of getting in the lane and finding other people, causing disruptions on defense, and I thought he played very, very well."
Which was not only as observant as one would expect from a coach looking to remove the "interim" from his title, but a great psychological ploy.
King indeed played his best game of the year.
Instead of looking for his own points, he was looking for Cardinal points. On U of L's third possession, he drove, and instead of jacking up an ill-advised shot, dished to Quentin Snider for a trey. Two possessions later, he executed a crafty feed to Ray Spalding for a deuce. He repeated his heads up play with another assist out of a time out to Deng Adel for a three, finishing with three giveoffs before halftime.
("Giveoff" a new term I just thought of. Either it will stick as part of hoops parlance, or fade into its own parade never to be used again. Stay tuned.)
King simply flowed with the tempo of the game. It's a great development, and a wise move on coach's part to acknowledge it.
* * * * *
The Cards' offense was in sync from the get go. U of L scored on its first six possessions of the tilt.
Yes, the Bulldogs were inept, but it's a good sign that the Cards were focused and took advantage.
As the visitors stayed close for the first fifteen minutes or so, I was inclined to complain about Louisville's lack of defensive intensity. And, frankly, besides Perry, they were a bit lax. But Bryant also made some tough, contested shots, at least early on until they tired and Louisville bored through the visitor's sets.
After Bryant pulled within a digit at 31-30 with 5:09 to play before intermission, the Cards exploded. Anas Mahmoud tipped in an Adel miss, and the Cardinalss hit their next seven shots.
In 2:03 of action, U of L ran off 11 consecutive for a 42-30 advantage. After the next 1:58 of clock, the lead was 51-35.
It was cool to see the bench up and engaged as the guys on the floor were slicing and dicing Bryant.
* * * * *
It was also a good sign that a lineup on the court much of the 2d -- Dwayne Sutton and the Four Freshmen -- continued to run the offense. Mostly. Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams forced a couple shots. Actually Perry also, but that may have been in the 1st. But they all played hard and it wasn't totally out of control.
Despite his obvious scoring prowess, I'm still not sure Deng Adel has made the improvements he and his coaches and the fans expected coming into the season. His dribbling remains iffy. And he takes off way too many defensive possessions. He forced several shots when there were assists to be had. He missed King down the left on a 2 on 1 break to name just one example.
Ray Spalding tallied a nifty over the back of the head follow on a missed J for a 66-42 lead. (Somewhat reminiscent of The Grif's iconic over the back of the head catch and flush against St. John's.)
* * * * *
Perry is now venturing into Terry Howard territory. He's 20/ 20 at the line on the campaign.
I'd settle right now for a moment in this season's national semi-final with Darius stepping to the stripe for a chance to secure a spot in the title game.
Actually Malik Williams (3/3) and Jacob Redding (2/2) are also perfecto for the year.
As a team, Louisville is a glossy .774 (130/168) so far.
Q's finally finding his touch from beyond the arc, as is, to be fair, Adel. As a team, the Cardinals are canning 34.2% of their bombs, an effective number.
* * * * *
The gym looked empty. Then again, I can't throw stones. I wasn't there along with all the others who were Christmas shopping instead of going to the game.
The halftime TV interview with several ACC coaches was a good one.
Gotta wonder, who (or what) is Houzz? As in Houzz Gotham Classic.
Whatever, next up in this excuse to add extra games venture is Memphis State in -- as Marty Glickman would intone -- Madison Square Gaaaahhhhden.
-- Seedy K