At the 7:30 media timeout of the 1st on Tuesday night, Louisville had outscored the visiting Miami Hurricanes 12-0/ 20-2 and led 30-10.
At +20 over an outmanned squad they had already beaten in Coral Gables in the season opener, all the Cardinals need to do was match the visitors intensity the rest of the way, and Quinn Slazinski would have some chances for garbage treys in the waning minutes of a rout.
Which is not what happened.
Which is not what happened at all.
With just under four minutes of clock left, Miami, which displayed serious heart throughout, had momentum and the ball down while down only five. The ‘Canes missed an inopportune trey.
Darius Perry then made the play of the game, driving to the hoop, finishing and completing +1. 62-54.
The Cards forced a turnover on the next Miami possession.
Then U of L ran a nice set, getting Ryan McMahon a straightaway open three. All net.
37 seconds. Two three point trips, one old school, one the new way the game is played. 65-54 Cardinals. Ball game.
U of L, whose lethargic play had caused me to jot these words in the margins of my notes -- “Uninspired,” “No Energy,” “No Take Over,” “No Urgency” -- found some fight at the finish after Perry’s catalytic play.
Perry, the game MVP, scored the next Card points, on a pass from Malik Williams after fashioning a beautiful back door move to the hoop. Jordan Nwora converted a 1+1. Williams tallied on a follow. Then Williams, after draining the first, missed the back end of a 1+1. But Sam Williamson fought for the board and hit a reverse layup.
While U of L was adding 15 to its total at crunch time, they held the visitors to a couple of FTs and a stat line filling garbage deuce with a couple of ticks left.
74-58 was the deceptive final score. The game, frankly, was much more fraught with peril than that scoreboard would indicate.
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Perry ended up with 10 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. No turnovers. Stellar D.
Perry’s +/- was +24. The next closest Cardinal was Jordan Nwora at +15.
Beyond his game defining maneuver mentioned above, I especially liked his nifty up and under, which pushed the advantage to 36-19 after a goal tend in the opening half.
Chris Mack on Perry’s play: “Darius (Perry) did a great job. He’s been playing a little more off the ball but the value of him being able to play both on and off the ball showed tonight. He was, by far, our best point guard. . . . It was great to see Darius, as a junior, step up and make some plays down the stretch. Not just on the offensive end, but also on the defensive end.”
In one of the more disturbing stats of the season, there was only one other assist by a Cardinal guard. Thank you, Ryan McMahon.
Nwora finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists.
Dwayne Sutton had 9 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists.
Steven Enoch scored 12 on 4/12 shooting, and secured 10 rebounds.
Malik Williams was the other double figure Cardinal scorer with 10. And 6 rebounds.
Sam Williamson, despite a couple of turnovers, one when he simply slipped making a cut to the hoop, played better than of late, scoring 6.
Louisville outscored Miami in the paint, 42-12. And, off the bench, 24-5.
The Cardinals FT shooting was again less than desirable. 12/18.
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It would be understatement to say that Miami at home after two straight Ls was fortuitous scheduling.
Not that the Cardinals until the last three minutes plus didn’t do all they could to make it more interesting than they and the fans would have expected.
At halftime I received a short not so sweet missive from Smart Guy.
”Last 5 minutes before halftime. Lost by 6.”
The Cards held the Canes at arms length after the break. Not that it was an “Instant Classic” or anything like that. Five minutes in, U of L was 2/8 from the field, Miami, 1/8. At least until Chris Lykes and Co. kept on plugging and made it a ballgame with a 9-2 run midway through the 2d.
Fortunately the Cardinals found some energy and pulled away late.
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Perilous three game road trip ahead. Notre Dame. Pitt. Duke.
-- c d kaplan