The 2018-19 University of Louisville Cardinals are not the first team to become discombobulated while attempting to decipher Jim Boeheim’s infamous zone defense.
They are not the first team to become disoriented while trying to find its shooting touch in the nation’s largest campus hoops homecourt.
They are simply the latest.
Combine those realities with the fatigue that February’s backended schedule has caused for this thin Cardinal squad, and the verisimilitude that this squad’s clay feet are starting to crack and crumble and you get what happened Wednesday night in Syracuse.
A disheartening 49-69 setback to the Orange.
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Through most of the first half, the Cardinals held their own in a decidedly ugly, herky jerky game. Despite having extreme difficulty figuring out a way to attack ‘Cuse’s match up zone, panicking on the few occasions when it breached a fissure in the D, and connecting on only three of 18 FG attempts, U of L was only down four, 12-16, at the 7:39 stoppage.
Then came this game-deciding interlude.
Darius Perry missed a trey, the Cards’ 10th errant bomb in 11 tries. Buddy Boeheim connected on a triple. The Cards turned it over, and Boeheim the Younger scored a second chance deuce. Ryan McMahon failed to connect from beyond the arc, but Elijah Hughes did on a fast break. 12-24.
The 8-0 Orange run in less than two minutes sealed the Cards fate.
U of L never seriously threatened after that.
The Cardinals tallied on their first two possessions of the 2d, the latter a Khwan Fore steal and fastbreak slam, cutting the disadvantage to 8, 27-35. Then they turned it over their next two trips down court.
The Cardinals’ next field goal came six minutes and forty nine seconds later at 11:51.
That time span featured 7 Cardinal misses and 4 turnovers.
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It is apparent that this beleaguered Cardinal team, which has risen to the occasion above and beyond several times this season, raising the hopes of the faithful, is fractured.
As the season wears on, the inherent shortcomings that have been cleverly masked to positive effect more than one could hope for are now manifest.
It is not impudent to wonder what is the state of this team’s psyche, given the ups and more downs of the last several weeks?
Is there enough talent and fortitude for a satisfying conclusion to the season?
It would be nice if somebody other than the steady as they go Virginia Cavaliers were coming for a visit Saturday. But that’s who’s next.
Will the U of L Cardinals find their mojo rising?
-- Seedy K