Miami O. is a Quadrant 5-quality squad, which had dropped 4 of 5 coming in against U of L.
But, in holiday mode too early, Louisville which played the whole opening half fully somnambulant, really sleepwalked into halftime with four turnovers in the last five minutes, shooting ofer 4 during a 3:22 drought before the buzzer.
At the break, I got a text from an out of town buddy, an astute observer of the game, but he hasn’t seen all the Cardinals’ games. It read, “I don’t get this Louisville team. What’s their strength?”
Given my belief that the team’s true identity/ legitimate potential are still to be revealed, I typed off an evasively apologetic reply, masking my own worries.
After all, the Cards were only up 28-20, against the visitors who missed 18 of 20 treys and were shooting only 25% overall. U of L had surrendered six offensive rebounds, and missed 3 of 5 FTs.
Following cocktail time came another patent pending uninspired open to the 2d. U of L allowed the short, mediocre Redhawks to quickly pull within four at 31-27.
The bad shot selection, porous D and turnovers continued. Emboldened and playing with more energy, Miami hung around, again pulling within four at 44-40 on a Josh Brewer three at 9:02.
Ninteen seconds later, Cardinal Catalyst Dwayne Sutton found Ryan McMahon open behind the arc. And, yeah, I’m goin’ Joe Dean, such a quick important answer it was.
String music, Louisville, Kentucky!
Boom! The Cards awakened.
McMahon’s bomb ignited a 17-0 run to 61-43. After a thank you Miami trey, the Cards tallied the next six.
U of L’s last deuce of the evening was easily the sweetest moment of what fortunately did not turn into a lump of coal in the stocking game.
Darius Perry stole the ball, and he and Fresh Kimble blitzed down court for a training film worthy 2 on 1 breakaway. They spaced the court. Passing it back and forth, the rock never hit the hardwood. When they got to the hoop, Perry deftly laid it off to trailer Malik Williams for a sweet slam.
70-46 was the deceptive final.
* * * * *
What the Cardinals needed to find Wednesday night, and need to develop as the season now gets serious is some Nasty. A lot of Nasty.
Let’s hope Santa gets the message.
One Cardinal is already there. Glue Guy Dwayne Sutton morphed Gorilla Glue.
Sutton grabbed 15 rebounds. Sutton blocked 3 shots. Sutton dished 4 assists. Sutton committed no turnovers. And he added 8 points to U of L’s total.
But one example of DS’s gettaoutamyway grit was how he powered for an offensive board after a missed Cardinal FT to increase the advantage to double digits at 50-40.
Malik Williams also showed some toughness. He snared 11 caroms, 5 off the offensive board. He added 9 points.
He provided the turbo charge late. Williams grabbed two offensive rebounds on the same possession, which pushed the tally to 57-40. At 59-40, he blocked a Miami shot, then scored a follow on the ensuing offensive trip.
Addressing how and why U of L finally clamped down for the final ten minutes, Chris Mack gave credit where it was due: “I think that all stemmed from Dwayne Sutton’s effort and then Malik (Williams) joined in.”
Both dug in on D.
As did Darius Perry, who had five assists.
Mack on DP’s game: “I thought Darius did a really good job tonight for sure and he played the most minutes of any of our point guards.”
* * * * *
As for Jordan Nwora’s game, I’ll let his coach do the talking. Mack’s verbatim response when asked about JN’s shot selection:
”I mean he took a couple really poor ones. Again, I’m going to keep saying the same thing over and over and that’s why we pulled him in last four minutes of the first half. He took an absurd shot and it wasn’t just Jordan. The other guys were shooting quickly and the guys weren’t ready to rebound offensively. I feel like a broken record. I told the team in the locker room after the game, so many fifth year seniors on the roster and system of play they believe in. They have to honor the process and be ready to do what they’re supposed to do. So that’s why we pulled them. Again, he is one of the elite scorers in the country. He’s being overplayed, bumped, and pushed. Not that the referee should have called it, but man, that’s just what happens when you get circled on the scouting report. He has to let the game come to him. If we run a play for him, which we have it doesn’t mean he shoots on it. He did the one time so that’s why we pulled him out. He knows that and he’s very coachable kid. He gets to geeked up and has too much confidence at times. It was corrected in the second half. He had some shots but we moved the ball much better in the second.”
* * * * *
There was one sure sign that Louisville for most of the game played like a group contemplating whether they would shower after the game, or simply throw on their parkas and head home for a quick holiday break.
In a tilt that should have been a stress-free walkover, the Cards were only 11/17 (65%) at the charity stripe. And, yet again, surrendered ten offensive rebounds against a squat squad ranked well into the KenPom triple digits.
But to finally take over and prevail, the Cards did the tighten up defensively, scratching out a season high ten defensive kills. (Kill = 3 D stops in a row.)
* * * * *
The exhibition season is over.
Next come the Wildcats, who fell later in the evening in Vegas to Utah, followed by that trench warfare known as ACC conference play.
-- Seedy K