There are explanations both specific and systemic addressing how and why Florida State handled Louisville Saturday afternoon at the Yum!, 78-65.
It was the Seminoles second victory over the Cards in a row for the first time since 1978, which was several conferences ago, and for the first time ever consecutively in Louisville.
First the specifics.
Though he’s far from alone, the Professor has always been adamant that a team needs to win the last five minutes of the opening half, and the first five after intermission.
Specific #1. At the 3:42 media stoppage of the 1st, Louisville led 30-27.
Between then and the halftime buzzer, the Cards were out scrapped and outscored 2-12.
At a 1:58 timeout, U of L was still behind just 30-31. But Florida State tallied on its final three possessions of the stanza. A stepback trey, a corner three and a deuce overwhelmed a pair of Jordan Nwora FTs.
At the break, Louisville Cardinals not named Jordan Nwora had takeen 28 FG attempts, and made only four. That’s 14.3%. The Seminole bench had scored 22, to only a single bucket by a Cardinal reserve.
Had Jordan Nwora not bounced back from his lame effort against Kentucky, U of L would have been beaten for sure at the break. The Cards’ leading scorer was playing within himself and in the 1st drained 6/9, 4/5 from the burbs and netted all five of his FTs.
Though they had committed but five turnovers against the visitors, who had forced 96 during their five game winning skein coming in, U of L was down a dispiriting 32-39 heading to the locker room.
Specific #2. Though the Cards did not have a great start to the 2d, they were competing.
With 10:45 on the clock, Nwora missed two FTs, but hustled for the rebound on the second one, snared it and scored a follow, cutting the deficit to 49-54. Moments later, after U of L stopped the Seminoles, Nwora grabbed a Ryan McMahon miss, missed the putback, but rebounded his own errant attempt and scored.
At a 9:50 timeout, U of L was behind only three at 51-54.
After which break, Florida State brought out the hammer, scoring on five consecutive possessions, pulling ahead 65-55 with 6:42 to play.
Louisville never threatened again.
Eleven second half turnovers doomed any positive efforts to stay in the game.
Poor shooting, and allowing the victors to fire away many times unimpeded from beyond the arc, where they made 11 of 23, also contributed to the L
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Systemically speaking, the first point that must be acknowledged is this reality regarding Saturday’s foe: Florida State is simply better than Louisville. They certainly were in the Yum!, and appear to be so overall.
Though the visitors started four sophs and a senior, they are deeper and more talented up and down the roster.
The Seminoles length and athleticism easily overmatched U of L.
Love them I do, but U of L was overrated in the preaseason, and has been overrated all year. Analytics be damned, but for the Michigan game, the Cardinals have not passed the eye test.
Especially in the backcourt, where State’s height gave them a significant advantage. Leonard Hamilton’s team repeatedly got their taller guards down low for easy scores over U of L’s shorter ones.
Chris Mack used the term, “manhandled.”
The Seminoles also had any number of players with a good handle on the ball, allowing them to take the Cards off the dribble.
One of the glaring deficiencies of this edition of the Cards is their lack of guys who can score off the dribble. Fresh Kimble can get it to the rim, but unlike similarly diminutive Russ Smith, who was in the house, the transfer from Philly can’t close with consistency.
Nwora, though far from a deft ball handler, can get to the rim some of the time, through sheer will. But it’s never a given.
David Johnson? Maybe, he’s still feeling his way to the college game.
Other than than those, there appear no other others who have displayed the facility to consistently dribble drive for a score. Samuell Williamson? He too is searching for the key to unlock his skills at this level.
Louisville’s guards are small. This will be a season long issue against teams like Florida State, two of whose three starting guards are taller than Dwayne Sutton.
Whether it is due to design flaws, or due to execution flaws, or both, Louisville has trouble getting into the flow of its offense against good teams. Yesterday’s major casualty there was Louisville’s inability to get the ball into the post.
If the Cardinals are going to come close to meeting lofty expectations, they will have learn to mask some compositional flaws, tighten up and toughen up.
Before yesterday’s telling matchup, several other local scribes who cover U of L agreed with me that the game was a big test for the home team, an examination that would indicate if U of L is deserving of its lofty status.
The Report Card is something to tell your parents you lost on the way home from school.
-- c d kaplan