After the huge W over Sparty, Chris Mack’s first as the Cardinal leader, Ryan McMahon, who had a career night -- 24 points on 4 treys and 12/13 at the line -- was asked how this game was different down the stretch from the battles lost in New York?
Several times during his response, he mentioned “the little things.”
Though he wasn’t specific, one must assume he was talking about the same items mentioned by his coach, which importances included tough, unrelenting defense, staying in front of their men in the pack line, making wise decisions, moving adroitly on offense, taking advantage of the Spartans’ gaffes, staying strong at crunch time, making free throws, and generally willing a victory against a legitimate Top 10 foe while playing a far from perfect game.
I have another theory why the Cards prevailed, even though as the Cards fell behind 61-62 with 3:50 on the clock, this one looked eerily like it would play out as the Ls did in Brooklyn.
Dick Vitale’s favorite Cardinal answered that lost advantage with a trey soon enough. The battle was punch, counterpunch, punch, counterpunch the rest of the way. Through regulation, and through U of L’ second OT slugfest in a row.
* * * * *
I’ll get to my theory in a moment. (Is that a tease or what?)
But first observations from this titillating conquest, which had the faithful -- and the coach -- dancing with joy. Literally.
Louisville was -16 in the paint. Steven Enoch was essentially a non factor, committing his second personal 1:23 into the action, and only playing six and a half inconsequential minutes. His absence was obviously a factor as the Cards were a woeful -17 on the boards, even though foul-plagued Akoy Agau and improving but not totally there yet Malik Williams fought like warriors the whole night. So too Jordan Nwora with his 9 boards.
U of L balanced those stats favorable to Sparty with these. The Cards were +14 in points off turnovers, giving up the rock only 10 times all night against State’s vaunted D, while benefiting from 17 errors for the guys in green.
U of L’s bench again came through, and tallied 16 more than Izzo’s subs.
U of L (30/41, 73%), among the nation’s leaders in getting to the line, were +16 at the charity stripe. That includes knocking down 10 of 14 in OT versus State’s 2/4.
Take it to the hoop, Mack obviously advised, and take it to the hoop U of L did to great advantage.
(That factor might be why VJ King didn’t start and played but limited minutes, most late when Mack was going defense/ offense. VJ continues to be hesitant with the ball, while most of his teammates have taken to the aggressive game plan.)
* * * * *
So, yeah, OK, you’re probably thinking, “I’ve read enough, Seedy, what’s this ‘theory’ of yours why the Cards prevailed?”
It has to do with Luke Murray’s dad. You know the guy whose soliloquy as greenskeeper Carl Spackler rivals Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” as the greatest ever.
Bill Murray’s a fan, an obvious and visible supporter of his son, here at U of L as he was at Xavier. It’s a way cool thing. But . . .
Murray the Elder was in the house in NYC. Of course, the cameras found him for a screen shot as TV producers are wont to do. Those moments came at the same juncture of both the Tennessee and Marquette games. During the second to last media timeouts of the games.
Which moments coincided with Cardinal meltddowns.
Still having to watch these games at home because of my knee injury, damn it, I noted at that same timeout against Michigan State, there was no shot of Murray the Elder, who either wasn’t in the house or was ignored by last night’s TV crew.
Listen, I love Bill Murray. I love what his son Luke has done. I love that Murray will be in the house in the future.
But . . .as a wackoid diehard looking for everything and anything that will aid a Cards W, I have to conclude that the absence of Murray’s mug on the telly was a karmic element of significance in U of L’s W.
Having now posited that hypothesis, Naismithius, Great God of Hoops, I beseech you, may the “jinx” begone.
* * * * *
The W was huge. Obviously.
The Cards are toughening up significantly game to game. They were intense from the opening tip last night. Then held on through hardship.
They needed to feel some positive results from their efforts.
And, despite the fumblin’, bumblin’ and stumblin’, they did.
There was Sutton’s relentlessness, Nwora’s work on the boards, Williams’ grit and determination, Perry and Fore’s defensive intensity, Agau’s fight, Cunningham’s take charge leadership and McMahon’s savvy and scoring.
All deserved to be rewarded.
All were rewarded.
During his post game comments, Khwane Fore summed it up: “The game was tough. Kind of stressful, especially at the end. We stayed together, pulled through, got the dub.”
Got the dub. Indeed.
So the Cards got that goin’ for ‘em. Which is way nice.
-- Seedy K