There are any number of reasons why this consistently improving U of L hoops contingent still fell short last night in NYC to the Golden Eagles by a three spot in extra time.
Not the least of which is that the Cardinals outscored Marquette by a point in regulation, but were still forced to play an extra five.
As best I recall, team with most points in allotted time frame wins.
That wasn’t the case last evening, when 2/3s of the same crew that called the Cards’ slogfest against Southern failed to notice that Jordan Nwora was a foot beyond the three point arc with 8:48 to play. So, the Cards had a seven point advantage, 53-46, instead of eight.
Which is a patently unfair situation, but, to be honest, not why U of L didn’t close.
More legitimate reasons include:
One, U of L, as it did against Tennessee and Nicholls, hit the wall after 33 minutes or so of play, at which point the Cardinals energy and execution diminished.
Which leads one to justifiably wonder whether it is simply a matter of adjusting to a new system by a young group, not being ready for such moments, or fatigue emanating from conditioning issues?
Two, and Three, Sam Hauser and Markus Howard. Both of these Golden Eagles are experienced juniors, who play with confidence and the mindset to take over a close game and finish. Both hit a great percentage of their shots, including 90%+ at the FT line and embrace the challenge.
When the game mattered last night, they grabbed it by the short and curlies and made it theirs. They finished with 22 and 21 respectively, converting all of their charity opportunities.
The player(s) U of L is/are relying on to rise to the occasion have not done so. Yet. And, unfortunately not last night in the Big Apple in a winnable game.
Three, free throw shooting. Yes, U of L was 16/21 at the line, which is more than respectable. But three of those misses came late. And the victors hit 20/23 (87%), for a +5 in a three point affair.
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What is frustrating about last evening’s L is that the Cardinals improvement is palpable.
For most of the game, they played better on both ends of the court. Better than they have in any previous battle. Better than Marquette.
I watched the entirety of UVa’s victory over Wisconsin yesterday afternoon, paying close attention to the Cavaliers’s D, which is essentially what Louisville is striving for. When the Wahoos play it, it is beauteous. The synchronous flow, five rotating as one. A fascinating design.
For the first time in the Mack Era, Louisville had a few defensive possessions last night when it approached Virginia’s level. But, alas, there’s a long way to go.
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Christian Cunningham aggressively played his best game as a Cardinal. 16 points, three assists, a couple of rebounds. (As a team, the Cards only turned it over 10 times. Acceptable.)
Khwan Fore is beginning to show how he can be an asset.
Jordan Nwora forced fewer shots, but still jacks up too many ill advised attempts.
VJ King, 7 rebounds but 2/10 from the field, remains the most noticeable disappointment of the campaign.
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What’s important for this fragile contingent of Cardinals is that they do not get discouraged.
To his credit, Mack, frustrated as he was, addressed that last night after the game.
Often it takes awhile for effort to be rewarded.
With MIchigan State, a visit to Seton Hall and IU, and UK coming up before conference play, frustration is liable to reign for awhile.
Louisville did a lot of stuff right last night. Hopefully, the Cards understand it’s going to take more, and are willing to continue to move forward.
Oh, that the next encounter was not against Sparty with their always tough inside presence.
But you play the hand that’s dealt.
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Not that it matters a whit, I personally prefer when the Cards wear traditional red on the road.
I hate when we take the court in black, as we did against the Vols.
-- Seedy K