Panache (puh-nash): a grand or flamboyant manner; verve; style; flair.
It is a noun rarely used in the sports vernacular, more usually found when some fashion guru with a purple pen is describing the John Varvatos spring men's clothing collection.
But, ever the rebel, with a mind still a bit hazy from overdoing it in the 70s, I won't back down. Since it's the word that came to mind as Mangok Mathiang displayed any number of moves around the hoop in a cruise control 90-67 U of L W on Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill.
Jump hook. Up and under. Fake right, go left. Vice versa.
Mangok Mathiang, Silent K, a guy a pundit recently called "a solid third string pivot" -- OK, it was me. A center of which it was stated, "he'll never be a force of consequence on offense." Yeah, that was also c'est moi.
So, excuse me a second while I take another drink of water to wash down my words and some gristle of crow.
Like a butterfly from a coccoon, Silent K is morphing into Special K.
Which is probably a bit too much hyperbole. But, really now, who saw this offensive, uh, panache coming? Certainly not me.
In 24 minutes of action off the pine, MM canned 7 of 11 shots from the field and both of his FTs for 16 points. Yes it came against Boston College, an eminently mediocre squad with little inside presence . . . but still.
Those shots that he's short-armed throughout his career are now caressing the board and netting.
And he's still windexing that glass and playing steady D.
It's February kids, in the wackiest college hoops season in memory, and another piece of the Cardinal puzzle has apparently found its spot.
* * * * *
Speaking of Cardinals busting a move toward their potential, how about V.J. King?
He remains inconsistent, prone to force matters, but . . .
. . . V.J. played his most mature game yet against Boston College.
Steady at the line (3/3). Steady from the field (4/7). No cockamamie twisting Js off the dribble. Steady D.
I must assume The Rick was happy with King's play. The kid was on the hardwood for 22 minutes, tied with a couple other tilts for his second most minutes. (He played 24 at Grand Canyon.)
If he can continue his ascendence toward maxing out on his potential, well, you figure it out.
* * * * *
Once again, the Cardinals blasted a team they were supposed to. It's the sign of a team rounding into shape for the stretch run.
The win was workmanlike, nothing special, but seriously taking care of biz.
The less than stellar play of David Levitch and Ryan McMahon underscored how important it is for the long term success of this Cardinal edition that Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks get well and back in the fold.
Deng Adel made his shots. But continued to display his capacity to fumble the ball away when he attempts to dribble more twice.
The Cards continue to give up open treys in the corner.
Part of U of L's game plan was to throw into the bigs in the paint. Besides MM's 16, Jaylen Johnson tallied 9 with 7 rebounds, and Anas Mahmoud had 8 and 3 with 3 blocks and several forced Eagle misses.
Ray Spalding scored three with 7 caroms corralled, but he still isn't clicking on all cylinders.
It was obvious that Pitino's game plan was to throw it into the middle and let the tall guys have at it. I still would have liked to see the ball go inside/ out at least every once in awhile. Didn't happen once in Boston.
U of L's improved marksmanship continued. 34/59 from the field equals 57.6%, including a more than acceptable 6/14 from beyond the arc.
From the line, 16/19. 84%. Glossy.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that other guy, uh, you know, Donovan Mitchell. A quiet 19 on 7/11 shooting.
* * * * *
Three Top Ten teams lost at home Saturday. Kansas. Baylor. West Virginia. Three more fell on the road. Arizona was shellacked on the road. UVa fell at Syracuse. Kentucky was drawn and quartered in Gainesville. Plus Maryland and Creighton lost on their homecourts.
This season is wacky crazy cockamamie.
If you tell me you know who is going to prevail in April, or even which four teams will ball the last weekend, I'll advise you it's time to start therapy.
There's just no tellin'.
Which is why the Cards' improving play is so heartening.
Why not U of L?
Ah . . . but . . . let's not get ahead of ourselves . . . first there's a visit to Charlottesville.
Virginia's been schooling the Cardinals in recent times. On Monday, we'll find out if they've learned their lessons.
-- Seedy K