When a team is still not fully developed, after a close encounter, it is not uncommon to hear a coach say he’d prefer to learn a lesson with a win than a loss.
David Padgett and his four freshmen, first timers all, learned a biggie Sunday afternoon at the Yum!
With 2:47 to go, U of L held its biggest lead of the game over Boston College, a team that had defeated both Duke and Florida State, at 67-49.
To interim mentor Padgett, it obviously felt like the game was won. Why not give the neophytes some minutes late? Let ‘em learn how to close. Get some garbage points maybe. Finish the deal, let the fans line up for discounted tickets for the women’s half of the double dip.
It, uh, didn’t exactly work out like that.
Quentin & The Rookies. Not rising up the Top 40 charts with a bullet.
Two BC FTs. 67-51. An ill advised Darius Perry three attempt. No. Two more Eagle FTs. 67-53. Q turns it over when trapped because none of the newcomers come to his aid. BC trey. 67-56. Still 1:53 to play.
Then a Lance Thomas turnover followed by a second chance BC threeball. 67-59.
Timeout Cardinals for reinsertion of the vets, Mahmoud, Adel and King return.
Triage still necessary. VJ King fires up a too early bomb. Miss. BC, with a hum goin’, cans theirs. 67-62.
Charity tosses are then traded over the next few seconds. With a BC layup tossed in.
When Jordan Chatman hits yet another from beyond the arc, the margin is just two wafer thin points. 71-69. With the proverbial plenty of time left on the clock. :33.
Matters finally settle. VJ King converts two at the stripe. BC finally misses. Ryan McMahon makesanother couple freebies. Another Boston College miss. VJ finishes the scoring with two more charity tosses.
77-69. If you saw it play out, you know It was not nearly as easy as that final tally might indicate.
To his credit, Padgett post-game admitted it was his fault.
How nice is it to have a coach who will own his mistakes? Correct answer: Really nice.
Plus a W to go 5-1 in the conference, and all alone in 2d place. With plenty of “Nightmare on Main Street” footage to show the newcomers in the film room.
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That reality notwithstanding, Louisville would have been in the deep doo doo early on if not for those up and down rookies.
In nine minutes off the bench in the 1st, flawed but feisty Jordan Nwora was 4/5 from the field, including 2/3 from Treytown, and went 3/3 at the line for a team leading 13 points at intermission.
When he went to work, the Cards were down 11-17. Minutes later, thanks to Nwora, and a 3 he canned, U of L forged ahead 24-21. He also snared three rebounds before before cocktail time.
U of L’s second leading scorer at the break was Malik Williams with six.
Then there was the stellar defensive intensity of Darius Perry, inserted to check Ky Bowman. The visitor who had 30/ 10/ 9 in the victory over the Blue Devils, was held to 9 at the half on 3/10 shooting.
Williams finished with 10 and 5; Nwora with 15 and 5. Bowman, thanks in great part to Perry’s checking (as well as others), finished with only 16 on 5/22 shooting. He committed 7 turnovers.
Which is to say, that trio of first year ballers was both really really good and really really bad in the same game.
Oh yeah, when they were on the bench, the rookies were locked into the action on the court, engaged and enthusiastic.
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It was a tale of two halves for Deng Adel.
He was ofer the 1st. No points. No rebounds.
In the 2d, he was a beast. From the get go.
He hit Williams for a +1 on the Cards first possession after play resumed. He splashed a trey U of L’s next trip.
His energy was most manifest later when the Cards were building their big lead.
Though it didn’t matter, because Q had already fouled BC guard Bowman at the beginning of the drive, Adel soared to smash the shot against the window. Then, next trip, he pilfered the rock, and raced down court, finishing strong for +1.
Which gave the Cardinals that 67-49 advantage, that, well, you know what happened.
Adel finished with 18 points. 10 rebounds. 5 assists. And a steal. All coming in the 2d but for one assist.
Ray Spalding was voracious on the boards with 11.
VJ King tallied an odd 15. He was only 3/10 from the field, but drained all 8 of his charity tosses.
U of L edged the Eagles on the glass, 42-40, after trailing in that stat most of the game.
Again the Cards were money at the charity stripe when it mattered, hitting 11 of 13 in the final four minutes, thereby warding off the visitor’s challenge.
U of L played man the whole afternoon. The plan, which the guys stuck to with energy, moving their feet and keeping their hands moving, was astute. Just about every BC foray to the hoop was thwarted, whatever path they chose. Weakside help was almost always present. It was just about pack-line quality.
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So, late game discombobulation aside, U of L did abide and conquer.
The Cards remain, along with UVa and Michigan State, one of three squads in the land which has not lost to a team outside the Top 25. (At least when the games were contested.)
While that’s faint praise, it’s still a thing, right?
The Cardinals face another top tier gang in Coral Gables next time out.
A W would be nice, no lessons necessary.
-- Seedy K