Get the sedatives ready, U of L fans, it’s going to be one of those Cardiac Cardinals sort of seasons.
At the media timeout with 7:38 left, Louisville’s double digit lead of just moments before had been cut to 60-52.
Shavar Reynolds trey was just the third Seton Hall FG of the 2d half. They were 2/21 after intermission until that harbinger of stess to come.
Noting the 3/22 inaccuracy in my notes, I wrote, “Lead should be BIGGER.” The results of the next three Card possessions were a Carlick Jones miss, a Quinn Slazinski turnover and a David Johnson miss. The visitors quickly pulled within a digit at 60-59.
They knotted it at 60, again at 62. Then, at the 3;08 mark, Sandro Mamukelashvili put the cherry on a huge Hall comeback, netting a triple for a 65-62 advantage.
At which juncture, it was apparently time for the newbies to display they could pull it out for the shorthanded Cardinals.
Dre Davis immediately pulled Louisville even with a strongman move to the hoop, completing the +1. 65 all.
Have I mentioned how much I love Hoosier players. Especially those who are sons of coaches, like Davis? Yes, I have.
But they’re still prone to mistakes, especially in but their second college tilt. Davis fouled out on the ensuing possession, and a SH FT later, the Cards were again on life support, down one. Which situation became more dire when Jones dragged his pivot foot in the lane.
Seton Hall, looking the gift horse in the mouth, gave it right back. (I think that’s how to use that phrase.)
Improving considerably over his debut performance, Jae’lyn Withers put the Cardinals back ahead. Which lead flipped on a couple Pirate FTs, which followed an empty possession due to an ill-advised Johnson attempted three.
Then it was rookie JJ Traynor’s time to show his mettle. He followed his own miss with a follow deuce for 69-68 lead with :19 on the clock.
On Seton Hall’s next possession, Withers deftly employed the rule of verticality, causing a miss in the lane, and what came next was a game-on-the-line, sphincter-tightening scramble in the paint.
JJ to the rescue, with the biggest board of the battle. Which he followed with the two hugest FTs of his career. And this game.
Slazinski was called for a phantom foul just before the final horn. Chris Mack took the blame for not fully informing all the players on the floor how to handle that situation.
Louisville survived, 71-70, when Takal Molson missed the third FT with a tick left on the clock.
I’ll say thank you, and take it.
* * * * *
Without Malik Williams, without Charles Mineland, without Josh Nickelberry, and without Sam Williamson, who injured his toe midway through the 2d, and didn’t return, Louisville hung on against a seasoned group that started 3 seniors and 2 juniors.
With Withers, Davis and Traynor — not a minute among them on the hardwood in a Cardinal uni before Wednesday’s opener — making the BIG plays, U of L survived.
Let me repeat: I’ll take it.
* * * * *
Here’s what else I’ll reiterate.
Carlik Jones is I.N.D.I.S.P.E.N.S.I.B.L.E.
I don’t know that I even need to share his stats, but will do so, just so you know I looked at the box score. 40 minutes. 18 points. 11 rebounds. 6 assists.
Davis, Withers and Slazinski were Louisville’s other double figure scorers, with 5, 6, and 7 rebounds in that order.
Let the gravity of those rookie contributions sink in.
The Cards only hit on 2 of 14 treys, and gave up 16 Seton Hall offensive rebounds, resulting in a dozen 2d chance points.
But the young and depleted Cardinals had only 9 turnovers, and were 19/24 at the line. They spurted out to a +9 advantage right after being tied at the half, which surge provided enough cushion to survive.
Louisville 71, Seton Hall 70.
— c d kaplan