Wordy and opinionated as I am, I’m not sure I have a lot to say or observe anew about U of L’s hard fought one point L at raucous Assembly Hall.
While not as depressed as this fan sometimes gets after tough defeats, the rest of Saturday wasn’t quite as Joyeux Noel as it might have been.
Fox TV’s triple header opened with the noted but what’s the big deal return of John Tesh’s “anthem,” “Roundball Rock.” And the wassail that was arch rival’s OT L to Seton Hall in the Garden. The Cards had bested the Pirates a week ago on their home court.
The Cards’ disappointment was followed by Marquette’s assertion of legitimacy with its OT W over #13 Wisconsin. Meanwhile #8 Michigan State prevailed in Gainesville over Top 25 Florida.
So, despite the setback, Louisville further insinuated itself into the national discussion with its stalwart effort in Bloomington, moving up a couple of spots in Ken Pomeroy’s respected computer rankings.
Bottom line: It was a coulda woulda shoulda. While the Cardinals tenacity has endeared them to the Red & Black faithful, Coach Chris Mack and his charges are pissed they didn’t close the deal, and will endeavor to do so moving forward.
Given the visible game to game improvement, key victories would seem on the horizon.
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There were too many little moments, but for the presence of which there might have been a happier outcome. Not that I’m pointing a finger at anybody as any sort of culprit here.
Heady defender Khwan Fore got caught in a double screen, which allowed Rob Phinisee an unfettered look straight away at the hoop for the game’s signature threeball at 1:25 for a 60-58 Hoosier advantage, a lead the victors never relinquished.
A little discombobulated, the Cards fell behind by 7.
BUT DIDN’T QUIT COMIN’.
Christen Cunningham’s trey at :11 cut the deficit to 61-65.
Ryan McMahon craftily drew a foul at :02, for three freebies which he netted. 64-66. After Romeo Langford’s game-sealing FTs for a four point lead, Cunningham bombed one from midcourt at the buzzer.
As we say, too little too late.
The Cards fell by a wafer thin digit.
Before CC’s prayer, the Cards hadn’t hit a FG since McMahon’s layup at 4:14 put them up 55-54. Four misses in a row, a turnover, some but not enough FTs, and the Cards had a quiet bus ride home.
But for a couple of dropped balls out of bounds, a missed second shot of a 1+1, a couple of fatigue-induced defensive lapses late, there might have been a different outcome.
Coulda, woulda shoulda does not = W.
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Most telling stat: The Cards were -10 in the paint.
U of L hit only 38% from the field. Which was offset by IU’missing 9 of its 25 charity tosses, but not quite enough.
It has been noted that neither Darius Perry nor VJ King scored.
Don’t confuse that similarity as something equal.
Perry was just off on 7 attempts. It happens. But he played his usual relentless D, grabbed 2 boards and handed out a couple assists.
After what many hoped would be his break out performance against woeful Central Arkansas, King, returning to his default hesitancy, did . . . nothing.
Steadily maturing Jordan Nwora led the Cards with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. (Chris Mack has cleverly found a way to mask Nwora’s lack of foot speed, while showcasing his prowess.)
Most important, one guy’s opinion, Nwora had only two selfish moments, his lowest game total of the year. He failed to throw the ball on a fast break to a open teammate ahead, but tallied himself at 19-13. Plus one ill-advised FG attempt in the 2d.
Given the totality of his play, those moments are easily forgivable. In a proverbial hostile environment, it was easily his best performance as a Cardinal.
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Let me repeat. I HATE when the Cards take the court in black uniforms.
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U of L returns home for three winnables in a row, chances to tighten up before the Wildcats visit on the 29th.
Better than you think Lipscomb is up first Wednesday. The Atlantic Sun favorites are 6-2 before their Sunday afternoon tilt against Navy. Their Ws include road wins at SMU and at #30 TCU. It won’t be a walkover.
(OK, I guess at lied in the lede, having more to say than I thought. Imagine your surprise.)
-- Seedy K