Back in the day, professional degree on the wall, but when I was still trying to figure what I wanted to do when I grew up, there was a period I’ve called my “first retirement.” During which I made do with this and that endeavor, one of which was managing a nascent blues band.
The members were an enthusiastic lot, but still finding their chops. Especially the guitar player, a fellow of gentle demeanor who had come from a different tradition and had trouble letting it rip on his Les Paul.
Until one weeknight at a local haunt in front of a smattering of stragglers, when out of the blue during a Muddy Waters cover, he let rip a ringing, stinging solo of the nastiest sort. Unlike any he’d played before. The band’s leader and I locked eyes, both of us with the look of “Where’s this been before?”
That sort of moment and what it could portend for this U of L team came to mind twice late during the Cardinals’ intense win yesterday over Buzz Williams’ Hokies.
David Padgett called an astute timeout with 2:51 to play. The previous five minutes of back and forth, et tu Brute action had been especially fierce. Bucket matched bucket. Charity toss matched charity toss. Defensive stop matched defensive stop.
The Cards couldn’t shake Tech. Q hit a couple FTs for a 76-74 lead. The visitors were thwarted the ensuing trip when Ray Spalding blocked a second chance effort and Deng Adel was fouled while grabbing the board. He converted the 1+1 for a four point advantage, but that was matched by the Hokies at their end.
Adel countered with a deuce. 80-76. Then on the defensive end, with heretofore unseen effort and focus on a missed Hokie longball, he jetted to the corner, elevated and snared the rock. manly man style.
So stunning was his exertion, I wondered, “Where’s this been before?”
At that juncture, Adel had tallied all of the team leading, career high 27 points he would score, grabbed 9 of his final total of 11 rebounds and dished all three of his assists.
Yet his coup de grâce was still to come.
Because the anything you can do, I can do better, tit for tat continued.
Spalding drained a couple FTs out of the stoppage. VT hit one. Ryan McMahon hit what shoulda been a dagger trey. But Tech countered with a deuce. The lead was still only a hardly safe six. Ray dunked one home on a brilliant feed from McMahon, but the Hokies countered yet again.
Then VJ King coughed it up, leading to a Hokie run out.
Justin Robinson was ahead of the pack on his way for a bunny that would have rendered the Cards’ margin most wobbly.
Cue Deng Adel’s game changing/ season changing?/career changing? Moment Part Deux.
So, right now I’m considering two old fart descriptors. There’s the Mighty Mouse “Here he comes to save the day.” Or, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman.”
Because Adel, matching Robinson’s every stride with two of his own, arrived in time for a soaring, victory sealing, where’s that been before swat away.
Louisville got the ball back. Q wielded the nail gun the rest of the way, swishing six straight FTs to nail the proverbial coffin shut.
* * * * *
So, yeah, Deng Adel was all that Saturday afternoon at the Yum!.
Should that surge of leadership through effort and performance continue, U of L could indeed evolve into a formidable outfit.
There’s also emergence elsewhere. Like on the bench, where David Padgett is getting more comfortable by the day. He made some astute in game decisions. His substitution patterns worked.
The offense had more flow.
The defense is getting more steady, despite some Keystone Kops moments, and the reality that it gave up way way way too many +1s yesterday.
Ryan McMahon is proving he’s considerably more than simply a spark plug. Hoops savvy is what comes to mind. He’s the guy in the Thursday Y League that not only has a sweet shot, but somehow makes the steal and gets the ball to the open teammate.
VJ King was better, but still is searching for that upside that his runnin’ podner Adel seems to have gotten ahold of.
The combo of Dwayne Sutton and Darius Perry came in yesterday in the 1st and supercharged the good guys. In the blink of an eye, Sutton found Perry who hit a trey, then the Manual grad kept a possession alive, which lead eventually to a Perry rebound and behind the back feed for a Sutton score.
When McMahon, who was part of that surge, hit Anas Mahmoud for a layup, the Cards 7-0 run recaptured the lead.
The men were in Asia Durr territory beyond the arc. 13/23. The Professor was smilin’.
U of L was 19/26 at the stripe. More pertinent: the Cards netted 16 of their last 18 freebies.
These Cardinals remain a work in progress, with a big test in South Bend just over the horizon.
But they have moved on from that regrettable final fifty seconds against Clemson.
Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
-- Seedy K