The Louisville Cardinals continued their trek toward an obvious 40-0 season (kidding) on Friday night when they picked up an impressive 86-78 win over Vermont. The name may not register like a Duke or Virginia would, but this was one of those wins that will look good on your resume when you are vying for an NCAA Tournament seed. Vermont gave Kansas all that they wanted at Phog Allen Fieldhouse last week and they won’t lose many games this season, especially in conference play. They are one of those teams that can win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament, so this really was a quality win for the Cards. Let’s take a look at a few key points and then have some film review.
You will see an example or two in the film review section of this post, but I was very impressed with how unselfish this team was. When you have a good shot, and you pass it to your teammate who has a great shot, that’s the sign of someone who puts the team ahead of himself. Christen Cunningham did it at least once to get Darius Perry an open three. The most impressive one for me is seeing Ryan McMahon do it multiple times. He is a shooter. Well, he is proving to be more than just that, but the guy can shoot. And for him to pass up shots to swing it around to Jordan Nwora, who is even more open, speaks volumes. If guys are not hunting shots, but letting the shot find them, this offense will be very dangerous.
Can’t get enough Enoch
This was game three. This is also the third post in a row that I have a little section about Steven Enoch. I just can’t stress enough how impressed I am by his ability, and willingness, to catch the ball on the block and play with his back to the basket and make aggressive post moves. These days, guys prefer to play on the perimeter, regardless of their size. It just seems to be the “cool” thing to do. And that can be great. If you get a big man that can stretch the floor, perfect. But there is something to be said about having an enforcer down low as well. He will shoot a jump hook, throw down a viscous alley-oop, and yes, even he will knock down a three from time to time. You know, he has the right to be cool too.
I guess the last player that comes to mind for Louisville that truly preferred to play with his back to the basket was Chinanu Onuaku three seasons ago. Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding were definitely face-up guys. Enoch scored 14 points on Friday night and was 6-8 from the field. He also looks to make the right pass when the double team comes, which I expect it to more and more as the year goes on. I am a huge fan of his game so far in this young season.
Aggressive V.J. is good
V.J. King seemed to assert himself more in this game. From the very first play of the game where he drove to the basket and drew a foul, he was set on being more aggressive in this one. Everyone is cautiously optimistic that this is the season where we see V.J. reach his full potential and he turns into a star. This game saw him hit a three, drive and get a lay-up, and get to the line seven times, knocking down five of them. He has to continue to show that kind of versatility in his game. I do think that sometimes when he gets going to the basket, he can stop and shoot a pull-up jumper rather than going all the way and picking up an offensive foul. His off hand tends to push the defender sometimes, and that’s a really cheap way to pick up a foul. Let’s see if aggressive V.J. makes the trip to New York for a couple of big games against stiffer competition.
-Kwhan Fore is a really good on-ball defender. He may not fill up the stat sheet or be flashy on offense, but that guy can defend. Having him out there helps the other four guys on the court just because of the pressure it puts on his man. Whoever he is guarding is more prone to make a bad decision with the ball and force something that could lead to steals for his teammates. Don’t worry about points with this guy. Just put him on the other team’s best guard and watch him go to work.
*I checked the box score after typing this. In 14 minutes, Fore literally had 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 assists, and he didn’t even take a shot. Alright, some of those can improve, but my point is, I thought he played a very good game, and THAT was his stat line. That says a lot about what he brings to the team.
-Darius Perry has a high motor that is going to give this team the life it needs sometimes during the course of the season. He always plays with energy. He can hit big shots. He can drive against multiple defenders and finish at the rim. He can be instant offense. And he can take quick shots that maybe he shouldn’t. Hmm, does this sound like somebody we know? Does Darius have a little Russ Smith in his game? I mean, he DOES wear #2. I am not calling him Russ just yet. To be determined, but you can see some similarities.
-Jordan Nwora can score. We see that. Some people may be clamoring for him to start. The coach in me still sees some lapses on the defensive end. Too many miscommunications with teammates on whether they are switching or fighting through screens, not seeing his man and the ball, or just getting beat off the dribble way too easily. These things are happening. The 20+ points he scores is great, but the defense still needs to improve, and it can. I believe it will. It’s just a work in progress. Until then, I have no problem at all with him bringing that kind of offense off the bench and having Dwayne Sutton get the start.
-I am still fine with Christen Cunningham to this point. He hasn’t done anything to “wow” us, but I will take the four assists and one turnover that he had in this game. He only shot the ball three times, so I don’t expect him to drop 20 on the opponent. I just think he tries to be the steady hand that runs the show. Nothing spectacular yet, just getting his job done. I am good with that.
Ball movement and simple player movement. Jordan Nwora cuts to the middle, taking the defender with him. Darius Perry ends up with the open shot because Vermont’s other defender is slow to close out. pic.twitter.com/4rx00EwU4Q— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
Miscommunication on defense between Fore and Nwora. Fore switched, Nwora did not. Easy bucket after Malik Williams gets looked off and leaves the man under the basket. pic.twitter.com/cULz3QM6lx— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
Because Jordan Nwora is a threat from outside, his man stays so close to him that he is too slow to rotate and help here. Leads to the easy alley-oop from McMahon to Enoch. pic.twitter.com/rwTWn0Ozom— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
Sutton drives to the basket and the defense collapses. McMahon and Perry both make the extra pass for a wide open three from Nwora. The play starts with Sutton, but the unselfishness leads to the three. pic.twitter.com/Ev0ksEdjxv— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
Another extra pass, this one from Cunningham to Perry. pic.twitter.com/BLRu350BRa— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
More miscommunication on defense. V.J. King does not switch. Jordan Nwora does. Open three. pic.twitter.com/A7LJi0Fs1C— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
Want another extra pass? From McMahon to Nwora. So good to see a shooter passing up a shot so his teammate can get a better shot. pic.twitter.com/AaRZseIwzd— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
I like aggressive V.J., but I’d prefer if this was another clip of “hey another extra pass” rather than the drive here. He has Khwan Fore open to his left. I don’t hate the drive, but I want to see the pass first. pic.twitter.com/ctDGs8PELx— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018
This is not the best on-ball defense, to say the least. And it leads to your dominant big man picking up a foul. This can’t happen. pic.twitter.com/vwfJ31pzRA— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 17, 2018