We all have favorites; we the faithful who pray at the Basilica of the Cardinals.
Favorite games. Favorite players. Favorite seasons.
Even favorite plays. I know I do.
One of mine came in the game that was a harbinger of U of L’s first title and the program’s success that was to come in the seasons that followed.
12/19/80. Cardinals 75, #2 Ohio State 65.
The good guys rattled the stunned Buckeyes early on with that intense, disruptive full court press Denny Crum brought with him from UCLA. Discombobulated, the visitors had trouble getting into their offense, getting the ball past midcourt.
At one point a Buckeye tried to pass the ball from backcourt past the center stripe to a teammate in the corner forty plus feet away. Derek Smith, with his long arms and huge hands, was checking that guy with the ball from about five feet away.
As the befuddled visitor attempted to hurl the rock over Smith’s head, the Cardinal guard, like a Venus Fly Trap snaring an unsuspecting visitor buzzing close by, reached up and snared the rock, firing it to a teammate streaking toward the hoop for an easy deuce.
Which memorable moment of Cardinal hoops history flashbacked last evening at the 11:03 mark of the opening stanza of U of L’s workmanlike dismantlement of the hapless Ramblin’ Wreck.
When Ryan McMahon, shorter of stature, shorter of arm, shorter of talent than his predecessor Smith, similarly snared a pass by GT’s Brandon Alston. The exclamation point came fourteen seconds later on the resulting Cardinal possession, when He Who Has Come To Be Called McM$$$ splashed a trey, for a 16-7 advantage.
The Yellow Jackets never got closer.
Adding to the panache of that interlude, young Ryan stole the rock on GT’s next possession, leading to a Malik Williams follow, increasing the lead to double digits.
Then there was that one that didn’t count, when McMahon bullseyed a shot from midcourt after he stole it. But he was hacked before getting it off and Ted Valentine wouldn’t count the basket.
* * * * *
As sweet as last night’s stop the bleeding victory was, it’s really hard to tell if it means anything as the Cards stare into the maw of their onerous, backloaded stretch run of the regular season.
Tech is an ACC bottom feeder, with only Wake and Pitt to thank for some distance, minimal as it is, from the cellar.
Yet yes, there were a few heartening if not definitive positive signs.
38 of U of L’s point total came from the bench. That’s a wafer thin digit short of 50%. Jordan Nwora had 16, Williams 11, McMahon 6, and Dwayne Sutton 5.
Darius Perry, normally a sub, started. Because Deng Adel tweaked his ankle on that horrid and truly stupid attempted reverse dunk on a breakaway against ‘Cuse. Not only did DP tally 7, but he was the catalyst for Louisville’s more intense defensive effort.
Loved his threading the needle forty foot feed to Ray for a fast break two to make it 51-34.
Nwora, who seems to play at 33 1/3 when the Cards are groovin’ at 45 rpm, and McMahon each had four of the Cards’ 15 pilfers.
Quentin Snider had 7 assists, turning it over only once.
U of L hit 60% from beyond the arc, 12/20. (Caveat: most were uncontested, I mean, Tech is really a bad team.) 18 assists on 27 made FGs is noteworthy.
There remain causes for concern. The Cards, who were outrebounded, gave up 10 offensive boards, and secured only 5.
11/19 at the free throw line ain’t gonna cut it in a game where every point matters.
Anas Mahmoud, most of the time, and Ray Spalding more than he should, both try to make post moves when they are fed the ball too far from the hoop. It would seem more prudent to try and back the defender down before receiving the rock.
And, while I loathe dissing players continually for their play -- after all, these are still teenagers -- I must admit I’m growing more frustrated with VJ King by the game. He’s really bringing nothing to the table.
That was literal last night before intermission. He was ofer the first half. And his contributions after the break were more a function of coincidence than effort and focus.
Next up: A trip to Steeltown. Kevin Stallings’ Pittsburgh “Do You Miss Jamie Dixon Now?” Panthers are winless in the ACC. The Cardinals throttled them first time around by 26.
Sunday’s game is a Must Win, if the Cards hope to make the Dance.
-- Seedy K