A Happy Valentine’s Day came early for the Louisville Cardinals.
I know, I know, I know, a cheap joke, a pun of sorts.
I could claim innocence, being possessed, say the devil made me do it. But nah. I had to go there. If you’re a hoopaholic, it was a sweet moment.
With about 9:00 or so to play, Louisville’s 14 point halftime lead had been whittled to 47-42. Pitt was trying to get in touch with its inner Stephen F. Austin. It was hoping to draw Purple Aces. And doing a dang fine job.
Louisville’s game had turned grayer than its first time unis.
Pitt’s Au’Diese Toney was whistled for fouling Jordan Nwora near the midcourt stripe. The caller of the transgression was one Ted Valentine, who, frankly, hadn’t felt the need to be front and center of the action to that point in the tussle, which is his usual M O.
The Pitt bench went ballistic. Screaming, hissing, waving their arms and generally spewing Steel City bile.
Most Especially Director of Basketball Operations Brian Regan, who verbalized thusly to Valentine. (Dirty Word Advisory. Please send all those under 18 and over 80 to the other room.)
”Bullshit. Fuck You.”
Well, pardon your French.
It is the type of language that is ill advised when addressing anyone in stripes. Teddy V.? Ya just don’t want to go there. He took special umbrage.
A T ensued.
This came with 8:44 on the clock. The tilt turned. U of L scored the next 15 points. The Panthers finally tallied a deuce in the paint, cutting the Cards then burgeoning margin to 62-44.
Malik Williams, playing better and better by the game since his return from a foot injury, scored another bucket for the Cards. And Pitt scored one more, to make it four total after the Valentine’s Day bouquet of roses and Whitman’s Sampler had been delivered.
Actually, that Regan guy deserved the technical. I mean, you know, you can’t yell that at a ref, even if you are wearing a blazer. It is simply so bemusing -- and literary -- that it was the oft quick-whistling Ted Valentine who was the object of his ire.
So, what very easily might have been a record fourth L by an AP top ranked team, third at home, turned into a respectable looking beatdown.
Louisville 64, Pitt 46.
* * * * *
To opine what I am about to, I do not feel the need to cull the Louisville record book, or those of the NCAA for that matter. I’m sure statistician emeritus Kelly Dickey will correct me if I’m wrong.
I’m positive beyond peradventure that the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball team has never played a basketball game where the first eight treys were made by eight different players. (Or, perhaps, even a game where that many made one at any time.) Plus it took Cards ace Jordan Nwora to complete the cycle. His came on his initial attempt from the burbs to push the Cards’ advantage in the 1st to 30-21 at the 4:11 mark of the opening half.
For posterity’s sake, here’s the order and time sequence.
18:47 Steven Enoch
17:59 Ryan McMahon
16:37 Dwayne Sutton
14:25 Darius Perry
13:08 Fresh Kimble
11:32 Malik Williams
7:31 Samuell Williamson
And, finally, Nwora twined his first attempt from beyond the arc. There was still a media timeout before brewski break.
The Cards 35-21 lead at intermission was aided considerably by Pitt’s scoreless drought lasting 5:35 to end that first stanza.
* * * * *
Given that the Panthers are fairly well coached by Jeff Capel, and that they’d handled the Cards in one of the meetings last season, and that U of L was sure to have a letdown of some sort after Tuesday evening’s first big holiday bash of the season, it was not a surprise that Louisville struggled in the 2d when the visitors surged.
The Valentine’s gift was a lucky break. Thank you Mr. Regan. Thank you, Teddy V.
It is to the Cards’ credit that they took advantage, as the Panthers were melting down.
Chris Mack on the Cards’ finish: I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops. We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer. Defensively, you take a few more chances when you’re the team that’s behind and you’re desperate to get back in it. And for us to be able to get the ball reversed, set the screens that we wanted, get layups, that’s just backbreaking. And then again, defensively, I thought we were, outside of the first five or six minutes, very tough to get in the lane on and tough to get second shots against. That was the separator.
* * * * *
I think Malik Williams 13 points and 11 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action deserves first mention, if talking individuals. He looks ready to lead, not only as captain, not only as the most vocal of the elders on the squad, but with his performance.
Williams D was as strong as it was against the Wolverines.
His coach agrees: He was out for two months. So to expect him to come in the first game or two and be what you saw tonight. I think that’s asking probably too much, but I thought he did what we’ve come to expect. His voice on the defensive end, his ability to help his guard teammates contain the basketball in ball screen situations, effect shots at the rim without fouling. I think there were six, seven minutes, maybe even less in the second half where we had three team fouls against a very aggressive offensive team. I think that talks a lot about just being disciplined positional defense, and a guy like Malik certainly embodies that.
Nwora had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also led the team in +/- at +28.
What I loved even more was his intensity on defense.
And what I love even more than that was how patiently he waited as seven of his mates hit longballs, before he even fired one up. His maturation process took a major step forward this first week in December.
* * * * *
The Cardinals committed too many turnovers. Thirteen.
But had 17 assists (Perry 5, Sutton 5) on 23 made baskets.
I’m not sure how significant it is, but Ryan McMahon played 36 minutes, four more than anybody else. He tallied 11 on 3/6 shooting, with a couple FTs.
Louisville again came out for the 2d, flat and out of focus. Pitt scored on its first four possessions after halftime, cutting its deficit to 8 in a matter of minutes.
* * * * *
Despite a lovely inbound play, resulting in a dunk by Steven Enoch, the gym went silent as the Cardinals calmed a Pitt comeback to push out 47-38.
Jordan Nwora hit the floor, holding his shoulder, and appeared to be in really significant pain.
He returned a few moments later, and, fortunately it does not appear the injury is serious.
-- Seedy K