If this edition of the Louisville Cardinals is to have any significant success this season, it should have learned the modus operandi that will get it there last night.
It won't be through fancy maneuvering. NBA rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell shan't be taking the court, and it's apparent nobody on this squad, for all the talent there is, has DM's panache. It won't be through banging the boards, for these guys, notwithstanding all their length, are lithe up front.
It won't be through long ball marksmanship. OK, that's not really true, maybe it will. This team has some shooters. And they're guys who aren't afraid to fire it. So, yeah, there shall be games when treys will reign.
But that's not the key factor here.
What is is H.U.S.T.L.E..
For the first time this campaign, the Cardinals showed what happens when they get inside their foe's jockstraps. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
That it was a necessary lesson against the #278 ranked team in the land proves the point. Scrappiness shall be a necessary component of every minute of every encounter.
* * * * *
The prime example from last night's smotherization of the Saints is obviously the 18 point run that blew the game open in the 2d.
But, ever the contrarian, my favorite sequence came at the end of an otherwise moribund performance by the Cards in the 1st. (I'll own it here. So despondent was I that I honestly considered leaving at the half, something I've never done. Of course, I didn't. My DNA would have caused an implosion of some sort.)
The Cards were just not there for most of the first twenty, until . . .
. . . until the magnificent sequence that commenced with 2:37 until the cocktail break. U of L had regained the advantage several trips down the court earlier, and led again 35-33 after a couple Quentin Snider FTs.
The Cardinals then showed what happens when they are relentless.
Dwayne Sutton pilfered the rock.
Darius Perry missed a layup. But Sutton soared for the board. But missed the tip.
Deng Adel grabbed that miss, and the ball ended up in Jordan Nwora's hands. But he missed a three. Adel was there first for the follow, but his tip wouldn't drop.
Finally Anas Mahmoud said -- figuratively with his actions not literally -- "enough's enough" and drained it.
As when Tommy hit the stage, the crowd went crazy.
(One guy's observation: the smallest assemblage for a Louisville game since the move to the Yum!. Embarrassing actually.)
* * * * *
Siena never really threatened again, though the Saints did cut the lead in the 2d to 48-47 with 15:26 to play . . . but . . . then The Anschluss.
In the next 6:24 of game action, Louisville blistered the bewildered visitors for 18 straight points.
There were steals. Six if you're inclined for exactitude.
There were slams. Several breakaway.
There were assists.
There were put backs.
It was a relentless thing of beauty.
While everybody on the court in home whites was in on it, the catalysts, the prime movers were Dwayne Sutton and Darius Perry. They stalked their prey like rabid junkyard dogs. OK, Ray Spalding also gets special mention. He too was dogged.
The tally was 66-47 before the Saints scored again.
To their credit, the Cards kept the pedal to the metal. (I really should save some of these metaphors, the season remains young. But, you know, the thrill of victory and all.) There was another 13-1 run late, from 66-51 to 79-52.
They key was, oh I'll let the coach tell you:
"We had a good defensive lineup in there. They just kind of got us going. We got some deflections . . . "
He also gave special mention to Darius Perry, whom I expect to see more and more alongside improving Q. VJ King just doesn't seem to be getting the plan.
* * * * *
There's still plenty to work on. Siena is, after all, not a very good team.
And the Cards gave up a bunch of offensive rebounds, which, frankly, shall be a recurring theme. Going for those blocks -- U of L had 15, Anas 9 -- gives up weakside caroms. It's a cost/ benefit situation. Last night it worked, against better teams, maybe not. We'll see. Mahmoud and the Cards are among the nation's block leaders, it's an aspect of this squad's character.
The Saints' Sammy Friday -- love his name -- who was averaging 2 ppg and 2.8 rpg coming in, went for 15 and 15 (10 offensive).
Which I point out to add some levity to my morning after exuberance. Friday's no Marvin Bagley III, to name but one big in U of L's future.
But this is no time to dwell on flaws, though I'm sure David Padgett and his staff will in preparation for improving Indiana and beyond. I expected the Cards might come out a different team in the 2d. They returned to the court way earlier than normal. DP's halftime admonishment was apparently short and not so sweet.
The beatdown of Siena was nice. The manner of its execution and what such gritty play portends for the future if it becomes the norm, more so.
-- Seedy K