More fascinating than observing these players and this team evolve amid the turmoil that's enshrouded U of L hoops is the development of David Padgett and his staff.
So, it was illuminating to read Jeff Greer's account in the C-J about assistant Greg Paulus's recent contribution vis-à-vis spacing at the offensive end. One, because the Cards' shooting percentage has improved accordingly thanks to those tweaks. Two, because my take on GP's alma mater through the years has been that the Blue Devils never really run a lot of sets, that it's more about spacing and movement. To significant effect, it must be acknowledged.
Padgett is, to his credit, turning into more of an in-game disciplinarian. Without the knee jerk tendencies of his predecessor. Especially with his more experienced players. In early tilts, he'd pull and sit VJ King for basic lapses. King, to his credit, has responded, playing with much more maturity the last several outings.
DP is turning his attention to Deng Adel, who for all his scoring acumen, has been a liability on defense and generally MIA on the boards.
At the 13:36 mark of the 1st, with the Cards up 15-12 after a Quentin Snider trey, Memphis State's Kyvon Davenport missed a dunk, with the ball caroming a distance from the hoop, to a spot where Adel was standing. Instead of going for and securing the rock which was within his grasp, Adel turned to break up court, allowing a Tiger to grab it and maintain possession.
Padgett immediately pulled Adel from the game.
* * * * *
Unfortunately, the lesson wasn't learned. A similar sequence occurred at 33-32. There was at least a third same ol' same ol' lame effort midway through the 2d, allowing a State +1.
I also made note of three matadorian moments, when Tigers blew by Adel for easy opportunities. There may have been more.
Adel was indeed hot from beyond the arc. 5/8. With three assists and a steal.
But, on an afternoon, when U of L was again outrebounded by a smaller foe, DA only snared three, another less than effort in an area where the Cards need bolstering if they are to have success this season. This after he only grabbed 2 against Siena, 1 against the Hoosiers and was ofer Bryant off the glass.
During the telecast, John Thompson III made a wise observation about Jordan Nwora, saying the rookie "pursues the ball, he's not a watcher."
For this U of L team to become fully realized, Adel needs to become a pursuer, not a watcher.
* * * * *
The flip side is VJ King, whose game is maturing before our eyes.
During Louisville's blistering start -- after a miss on the first possession, the Cards canned six straight -- VJ hit an in balance J, then a long ball. (Q was also smokin'. He had the other 10 of the Cards' first 15.)
King gathered a nifty offensive board and tallied a follow for a 52-42 advantage. Next trip up court, he made a crafty skip pass feed to Q for a trey, and later notched another assist, when he passed up an attempt, feeding Dwayne Sutton in the corner for a triple.
He tallied 17 on 6/9 marksmanship, second only to Q's 19 on the day.
He too only secured three boards.
* * * * *
So, let's talk about rebounding.
Winning the battle of the boards is not an imperative to win the game. Though my guess is champions rarely post a minus off the glass. And there's a difference between grabbing offensive and defensive caroms.
But, Louisville, it seems to me, needs to head to Bargain Supply for a case or two of Windex.
What numbers display greater effectiveness?
Anas Mamoud blocked 7 shots. But only got his hands on 2 rebounds.
Ray Spalding had 5 blocks, but again was huge off the glass with 9 rebounds.
What might U of L be sacrificing by going for so many blocks? Of course, teams need to move to their strengths. Mahmoud has great instincts and the facility to block shots. But might a tweak in philosophy here be for the betterment of chances for significant future success?
Memphis State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, scored 14 second chance points and 34 points in the paint; all significantly better stats than U of L.
If the Cards continue to go for blocks, as I'm sure they will, King and Adel have to be as voracious on the boards as Sutton and Nwora. Mahmoud, for all his blocking craft, needs to get more than a couple rebounds.
* * * * *
As the Professor always says -- I mean, always -- "you look good when you make your shots."
The Cardinals netted 14 of their 26 bombs.
Plus missed only one FT, their last when the game was well secure, going 11/12 at the charity stripe. The Cards didn't shoot a FT in the 1st.
Louisville went through one cold stretch in the 2d, hitting only one of 10 attempts, but the defense held and the Tigers were only able to pull within four.
16 assists on on 28 made FGs. Nice.
* * * * *
The attendance was announced as 6525 in Madison Square Garden, "the world's most famous arena." (Not to be confused with "the world's most spectacular arena.")
I wasn't in the gym. When I saw all the empty seats on my new telly, I texted my man Doc who journeyed to the Big Apple for the game (and visit family) to inquire about the "crowd."
"Not more than 1000."
Whatever, a W is always good. A win over U of L's long term rival Memphis State is ever sweet. Oh, for a return to the halcyon days of beating up on Dana Kirk.
The Cards have a couple more scrimmages this week, before it gets serious with a trip to Lexington and the ACC.
-- Seedy K