Cardinal hoops fans, for obvious reasons are pumped.
Against the Seminoles, U of L came out focused, intense, and smokin’ at both ends of the court “in a game they had to win.” Later on, they did bend but didn’t break when the Seminoles started raining treys down the stretch, and the Cardinals got a might wobbly.
If the faithful believe the Big Dance projections of the World Wide Leader placing the Cards chances at 100% -- I guess they didn’t see the Virginia game -- they’re probably breathing easier. I don’t, and remain on Tums alert, but that’s of no consequence.
Louisville is in better shape now than when we awoke this morning.
So, there’s lots to talk about, stick with me here, the whys and wherefores shall become apparent.
But I’m going to start with seriously tanned Tom Crean, who appears to be in training for the George Hamilton Cocoa Butter Open.
Most in this neck of the woods don’t especially like Crean. Maybe it’s his scowl. Maybe that he really didn’t get it done at IU for those living on the Sunny Side. Maybe it’s we discount his coaching prowess unless he’s got Dwayne Wade on the roster. Whatever.
But he’s a pretty astute observer of the game, not bad in the studio, and totally nailed the exact reason the Cards were able to hold off State and seal the deal.
If he didn’t actually name the reason by name. (Awkward sentence, just keep reading.)
I shall. Leonard Hamilton.
What dumbfounded Crean, and had Doc and Mr. Bunny and me thanking Naismithius, was the coaching of the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving Hamilton on the foe’s bench. At crunch time, with the game within reach, the Seminoles didn’t continue to pressure, didn’t force the Cards to hit from the line and didn’t stretch the game.
Down by 25 with 11:02 to play, the Seminoles had surged within 8 with plenty of time left, 1:41 to be exact. But Hamilton let the Cards dribble out the clock, and didn’t foul U of L until Anas Mahmoud had a dunk attempt a minute and 16 seconds of clock later. The Cards center missed both FTs, but it was too late for State.
Leonard Hamilton did what Leonard Hamilton does. Thus U of L’s failure in the 2d to put an exclamation point on the immaculate 1st the Cards had fashioned wasn’t fatal.
Even Tom Crean -- and oh my did he look absolutely mahvelous or what -- made note of the coaching gaffe that allowed Louisville to escape.
* * * * *
As noted above, I’m not sure the victory assures the Cards a spot in the First Four in Dayton or not, though a W over UVa would cement that at the very least, if not a move all the way until the Round of 64.
But, what I do know is U of L was not to be denied on this nor’easter of a day in Brooklyn.
The Cards tallied on their first four possessions. They went on a 14-1 run for a 28-18 advantage. Then another 10-4 skein for a sixteen point lead. And, off the Sosa play even though Q waited a might too long to get things in motion, Ryan McMahon splashed a three ball at the halftime buzzer for 41-22 lead.
Dwayne Sutton was the catalyst before the break with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, a steal, an assist and his usual injection of octane.
After the break, U of L blasted ahead by 26 with 11:35 left.
Slippage ensued. The Seminoles canned 4 of 5 from Times Square. Plus of bunch of twos. Plus a bunch of free throws.
But Louisville, facing the NIT or maybe spring break, persevered.
Other than miserable a 5/11 lack of marksmanship at the line, U of L was more than adequate on offense after intermission. The Cardinals simply forgot to stay ratcheted up on D. They were 16/30 from the field, 4/5 beyond the arc. They wavered a bit on the boards after a 7 rebound advantage in the 1st. And only turned it over thrice.
* * * * *
Q played like a guy who knew what the game meant, knew he had no intention of heading to LaGuardia after the game.
19 points. 5 rebounds. 6 assists. No Turnovers, as in zero. Leadership.
Ray Spalding had 18 and 4.
Deng Adel had 15 and 8. Though he took some wacky shots, a couple of which fortunately dropped.
Darius Perry tallied only 8. But had two huge scores to hold the Seminoles at bay when they were charging. A deuce to keep the Cards up 73-58. And the next Cardinal score, a three for a 76-63 margin.
* * * * *
The arguably game securing interlude came about midway through the 2d.
Adel netted a trey for a 61-38 lead. A Seminole committed a foul fighting for rebounding position, so the Cards got the ball back. Snider hit a second chance trey for a twenty six point lead before Florida State got the ball back.
Six point possessions. A good thing.
* * * * *
This and that:
I love love love noon games.
I love when the Cards wear red on the road, the way it’s supposed to be. I would have preferred the dunking Cardinal throwback shorts, but you take what you can get.
Zebra Mike Eades made a call I haven’t seen all season, for years actually. He called Braian Angola for an offensive foul on a drive to the bucket, when he pushed away a Cardinal with his off arm as he was trying to create space for his shot.
The win was the Cardinals’ 20th of the year.
Dan Dakich generally behaved himself while doing color commentary.
I would have inserted Sutton and Perry earlier in the 2d than David Padgett did.
Louisville was 10/16 from beyond the arc.
Louisville turned it over only 9 times.
U of L’s D seemed to work better when the Cards stayed in zone an entire possession instead of switching to man/man late.
Leonard Hamilton on the other bench. A good thing. (I know, I already said that, but it really was important today.)
Another noon game Thursday. Sweet.
-- Seedy K