Before we get to the salient Reality Check, let’s savor what the Cardinals did do right in Chris Mack’s inaugural game as the head man.
After going ofer the long ball in the opening stanza, well traveled grad transfer Jeremiah Jefferson had taken six treys in the 2d, and drained them all. When teammate Gavin Peppers added one of his own with 3:40 left, the never quit, foul laden Colonels from Thibodaux, La. (tib-uh-dough) had whittled the nervous Cardinals lead to a deuce at 68-66.
You could almost hear the sphincters tightening. On the court. In the stands.
During the final media timeout, Mack assigned defensive ace Darius Perry to check Jefferson.
The beleaguered Cards did the tighten up.
U of L scored but one FG from then on. After VJ King drained the second of two charity opportunities, Perry broke the press, went end to end for a layup.
In the last two minutes of the nerve rattling contest, U of L went to the line fourteen times.
Here’s how they did.
Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. Net. (Hold your barbs, ye purists, I’m speaking figuratively all twine, not literally.)
Steven Enoch: 2/2. (He was 9/9 on the night.) VJ King: 2/2. Christian Cunningham: 2/2. Perry: 2/2. Cunningham again: 2/2. Dwayne Sutton: 2/2. Cunningham once more: 2/2 to make it an 85-72 final.
In a game when the Cardinals did little else objectively exemplary, they connected on their last 15 charity tosses to seal the deal.
After missing 3 of their first four opportunities at the FT line, the Cards were strong with the gift freebies. 42/55 (76%) on the night. The visitors fouled 38 times. Four were DQed, two more finished with 4.
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Here are the firsts in Chris Mack’s opening W, about which he was none too pleased in his post game comments:
1st Shot: Dwayne Sutton.
1st FG: Darius Perry.
1st Trey: See sentence immediately above.
1st Deuce: Jordan Nwora. Though it took awhile.
1st Rebound: Steven Enoch. Offensive, though the Cards only grabbed five such for the entire game.
1st turnover: Darius Perry. He wasn’t alone. U of L gave it away six times early until settling down somewhat.
1st Block: Malik Williams. Who continues to show he’s got more than a little to give on defense and underneath. He ended up with five boards. During one defensive sequence, he threw himself on the floor twice for loose balls.
1st Surprise: Dwayne Sutton started instead of Jordan Nwora.
* * * * *
If anybody does, Steven Enoch (+21) and Darius Perry (+18) get game balls. They were solid.
Dwayne Sutton (+18) remains a guy who just keeps plugging, oft making things happen.
Hardly noticeable, Khwan Fore was +14.
* * * * *
Watching U of L play with totally new systems and philosophies at both ends, I kept wondering why there weren’t orange cones and yellow tape surrounding Denny Crum Court? Accompanied by signs that read “Construction Zone. Men at Work. Double Fines.”
This edition of the Cards is nothing if not a work in progress.
Whether there are enough tools and materials to construct a formidable outfit remains to be seen.
To their credit, they survived on a night when they finished the last six minutes plus before intermission without a FG, but still had a ten point advantage at the break.
They survived a lesser but feisty foe when they obviously don’t feel comfortable with the pack line D. They survived when they fell prey to old habits, and didn’t display a lot of fire.
A win under such circumstances is never to be dismissed.
Patience with this bunch is mandatory.
It’s going to be awhile before the “Construction Zone” signs are removed.
-- Seedy K