With the arrival Saturday afternoon in the Yum! of Pittsburgh Part Deux, it was time for the Louisville Cardinals to get proverbial.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Or, as inarticulated by a former president, and this version may apply only in Texas or Tennessee: Fool me once . . . shame on, shame on you . . . fool me . . . you can’t get fooled again.
The Cards indeed remembered what went down a couple of weeks back in the Oakland Zoo, and were not about to abide a rerun.
That night in Steel City, precocious Panther guards Trey McGowens (33) and Xavier Johnson (21) drove to the hoop time after time after time with impunity, and many times unmolested, combining for 54 points. Pitt blindsided the Cards that evening, for its first league win since the Steel Curtain was a thing.
Cue The Who, Panthers, the Cards won’t get fooled again.
66-51, in favor of the good guys, was the final.
That rookie duo who’d had their way with the Cards last time were a combined 7/21 from the field, settling for 16 points between them. And, because U of L throttled the visitors with its tightest D of the season yet, those youngsters each turned it over five times.
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The primary example of this strangulation came after Pitt mentor Jeff Capel was forced to call for a stoppage with 7:35 left.
Christen Cunningham had just fed Jordan Nwora with a no look dime for an oop slam that increased Louisville’s advantage to 53-44.
When play resumed, the Cards missed three straight opportunities to put the heels of their sneaks on the Panthers’ throats and make ‘em cry “Uncle.” Nwora didn’t convert the +1 out of the timeout, nor a layup the next trip, nor a jumper the following.
But U of L’s D was, as we say, suffocating.
Every venue to an open look, or a path to the paint was shuttered. It was clamp down with Gorilla Glue™ sealed. Johnson attempted an awkward layup. No dice. Then a contested jumper from an unfamiliar spot. Not today, not in our house.
Then Nwora, as he’s wont to do, cheated in a passing lane, pilfered the rock from Khameron Davis, took it end to end for a layin and this time converted the +1.
The stranglehold at the north end of the gym continued, right in front of the visitors bench. Meanwhile the Cards started clicking again on O. CC found Steven Enoch for a flush. Then the Cardinal pivot, who had a 12 and 11 double double on the day, converted a 1+1. Then did it again after corralling an errant Cardinal shot.
The coup de grace was Nwora’s shot clock triple at 3:21. The four minute plus 12-3 run sealed the deal.
More important, it confirmed that this new defensive scheme from the new guy named Mack, whatever you wish to call it, is a keeper.
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I know I tend to consider stats too much. While most always admitting that they rarely tell the whole story.
So, at the half, I see my man Sportsby -- though that may be spelled Sportsbee, we’ve never decided -- and we were going over the breaktime box.
Shooting stats were about even. The Cardinals had coughed it up an inexcusable 11 times, while the neophyte visitors has but 4 turnovers. Yet U of L had an 8-7 advantage in points off turnovers. U of L was +10 off the glass.
Even though the Cards couldn’t get the ball to the bigs inside, Sportsby(bee) opined, “We should be ahead.” Yet Pitt was up four.
U of L’s numbers in the 2d, when the Cards put their imprimatur on the game, still were nothing special. They were -9 on the boards.
They were only 12/29 from the field. Yet, thanks to that tenacious D, forced Pitt to miss 19 of its 26 attempts after intermission.
But they did the little things, the winning things. Like netting 10/12 at the line. Like only turning it over twice, while forcing thirteen -- count ‘em, 13 -- giveaways from the Panthers.
Have I mentioned U of L’s DEFENSE? Yes, Seedy, you have, curb thy verbosity.
While it was a nuisance, the Cards handled Pitt’s zone press with dispatch, but for one ten second violation.
Besides Enoch’s 12/11 dub dub, CC had 7 assists and Dwayne Sutton grabbed 9 rebounds.
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While Louisville’s defense was the story of the victory -- more than one guy’s opinion -- the Cards continue to increase their fluidity at the offensive end.
One sequence stands out for me. It came with a little over nine minutes til the buzzer, putting the Cardinals margin at 48-41.
Cunningham drove the ball down the right sideline, avoiding a trap, then turned the corner and continued to advance toward the bucket along the baseline. When it looked like he was pinned down, he deftly passed the ball to Nwora who had by design drifted to the foul line. He immediately found Dwayne Sutton, who, thanks to U of L’s canny rotation, was wide open for lay up.
My fave offensive play o’ the day.
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A rant, a rave and an off the wall suggestion:
Love that they gave Halftime Wayne the keys to the car. Savvy PR move.
Hate how fans in the stands haven’t a clue what’s going on when the zebras are checking the monitors, while those at home are kept advised.
And, I think it’s time for U of L to get a new fight song. Something powerful, something that rocks, something that energizes the faithful. Something as invigorating as -- hold your barbs s’il vous plait -- that of arch rival.
Truth is Louisville’s fight song has always been sort of meh.
Let’s pump up the volume, Al Greener.
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Trap Game Wednesday: Wake Forest.
-- Seedy K