Those tuning in who are longer in the tooth should remember Charles Schulz’s iconic contribution to the comic pages, Peanuts. The world observed through the eyes of Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and, of course, the ever beleaguered Charlie Brown.
The latter of whom along with his creator was apparently a big baseball fan, who, given the large number of strips devoted to it, had trouble coming to grips with the memorable ending of the ‘62 World Series.
That was what was rolling around in my mind as I fitfully attempted to fall asleep after the Cards dropped a most winnable road game last night to Miami.
That ‘62 Series between the NY Yankees and SF Giants came down to the last batter in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7. The Yanks were up 1-0 in Candlestick. Giant runners on 2d and 3d with two out. Ralph Terry on the mound. Future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey at the plate.
McCovey smashed a liner toward 2d, which was snared by Bobby Richardson.
Game over. Series over. Yanks repeat.
For days afterward, Schulz’s comic strip would have three segments of Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on the curb, looking to the middle distance, not talking, heads in hands, contemplating. In the last box, Charlie Brown was standing, arms outstretched to the skies, screaming “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?”
Last night in Coral Gables with ten ticks left on the clock in OT, the Cardinals, down 75-77, somehow, somewhat miraculously to be frank, still had a chance to steal another ACC road victory. After Hurricane Bruce Brown missed the second of two FTs, U of L pushed the ball upcourt and got it to an open Ryan McMahon in the corner beyond the arc in front of the Cards bench.
As he rose to launch the game winner, Miami ace Lonnie Walker (who, by the by, willed Miami to victory) leapt from aways away and swatted the shot just as it was beginning its arch.
After calming down enough to attempt to go to sleep, with my head twisting back and forth on my pillow, my inner Charlie Brown kept screaming, “Why couldn’t McMahon have ball faked, to get fouled or have a cleaner look?”
* * * * *
Understand, it’s certainly not McMahon’s fault. That’s not why Louisville faltered.
First and foremost, as happened at Clemson, the Cards simply couldn’t close, despite any number of chances to do so.
That the situation came down to that -- the game should have been in hand in the Cards’ favor, not precarious -- can be attributed to two fundamental causes.
Free throw shooting.
Giving up offensive rebounds.
The Cards left their previously stellar charity stripe shooting touch at baggage claim. They were a miserable 16/25 at the line. 64% doesn’t cut it in close conference tests on the road.
As the Cardinals clanked one or two here and there early on, I was reminded of Larry Bird’s admonition that FTs early are just as important as those late. In the 1st, Ray Spalding, otherwise a beast with 13 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals and 9 points, missed a +1, and the second of two and the first of two. Deng Adel missed the second of a 1+1.
All came when the game was close and U of L could have had a slightly bigger advantage at halftime.
After intermission, with Louisville up 55-54, Ray missed both at the line. Adel made but one of two at 61-63 after the final media timeout of regulation. Anas Mahmoud, who produced his best performance as a Cardinal (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks), only missed one of four at the line. But it came with :13.6 in regular time and could have put the Cards up 3.
Etc, etc, etc.
There were several misses in OT. (Though one of the clearest visions of the night was how calm Jordan Nwora looked when he without a hint of nervousness swished a couple in extra time.)
During the timeout with 7:27 to play, I jotted down, “Make FTS and we win the game.”
U of L was -6 at the charity stripe.
The Hurricanes had 18 offensive rebounds, and scored 18 second (or third) chance points. That’s six more swipes and five more points than Louisville could muster.
The fatal Miami effort came with :41 to play in OT, with the game knotted at 71, when Dewan Huell dunked a follow of a Anthony Lawrence miss for a two point lead the victors would not relinquish.
* * * * *
Certainly no one player or no one play lost the game. It was there to be won and U of L, still tweedly at times, simply couldn’t close.
But I gotta say, Deng Adel’s Hero Ball shot with :25 to play in OT was horrid.
David Padgett obviously called a set to get the ball to Adel and to let him make a play. But he drove to the lane, and, if memory serves -- I’m trying to block out the image -- he was double or triple teamed. Instead of recognizing the situation, getting the ball to an open man, he threw up some sort of convoluted awkward attempt that didn’t have a chance and didn’t come close.
I meant “threw up” as it is used in the vernacular, as in “vomited.”
But, allow me to repeat, there were still opportunities to grab the W after that.
-- Seedy K