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Seedy K’s GameCap: Western Kentucky

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Cards batter the Hilltoppers, 75-54

“Ball-You-Man”

At least that’s how I remember the defensive coda, preached by my HS club coach. We listened. After all, the Scherm had been the manager for Peck Hickman’s Cards, and is credited for the rousing halftime speech that spurred U of L to victory over Kentucky in the ‘59 NCAAs.

There are endless variations of effective D that have been crafted through the decades. Wooden’s full court press. Boeheim’s lauded zone. Bennett’s pack line.

Chris Mack’s predecessor fashioned some hybrid conglomeration which switched principles mid -possession, and, frankly, I never have been able to figure out. But, when it worked, it worked really well.

One thing it did include was jumping passing lanes. Which resulted in lots of steals when effective. And lots of bunnies by the opponent, when it didn’t, and the weakside guys didn’t rotate to cover.

Mack is not a jumping the lane advocate. Which may be why during his first two seasons, his version of the pack line never clicked quite as effectively as it had at Xavier. When he was still mentoring guys whose tendencies were informed by the former coach.

Which brings me to this year’s still woefully shorthanded, young if not babyfaced band that has been able to take to the hardwood for the season thus far.

Defense is the basic reason why U of L has won its first four games in 7 days, including a hang on by a thread W over legit Seton Hall, and Tuesday’s dismantling of formidable Western Kentucky, 75-54.

Damn, I love how these young uns are playing D.

Who’s been heralding how the newcomers move their feet when the foe has the rock? Ah, you know.

Well, after the Cards broke the Hilltoppers last night, Coach Chris Mack also verbalized it, when praising rookie Dre Davis (21 points on 7/9 shooting).

“He’s a warrior. It’s what we saw from him at Lawrence Central, he moves his feet incredibly well on the defensive end . . .”

Nobody who has played for the Cards this year has any vestiges of the Pitino philosophy, swirling about inside. It’s all Mack. And, so far, at least in the small sampling, it’s a thing of beauty.

Louisville did snare 9 steals, including 4 by David Johnson (17 points, 6 boards, 8 assists) in his best outing of the campaign, and 3 by Jae’Lyn Withers.

But they came from placement and film room-educated anticipation, within the flow of Mack’s version of the pack line, not taking a chance and jumping the lane. There were only really a couple of lapses in the 1st, which the Toppers turned into a couple open layups.

But there were more lovely moments, like forcing a five second call late in the opening stanza, resulting in an Aidan Igiehan 12 foot J at the other end. And DJ pilfering an inbound pass early in the 2d.

Tenacious D broke the Toppers.

Cue the Jack Black.

* * * * *

I’m a worrier by nature.

Last night’s moment of concern came right after intermission, at which juncture the Cardinals led 34-29. Which had been ignited by a 10-0 Cardinal run to take the advantage midway through the opening half.

U of L forced turnovers on WKU’s first four possessions. Three second call. Traveling. Davis drew a charge. And harried Carson Williams gave it over. Despite those defensive efforts, the Cards only increased their advantage by a deuce.

Not enough, thought I, Louisville should/ could have taken more advantage.

Soon enough, all was well. Heart rate slowed.

Thanks to a delightful 3:55 interlude, when Louisville’s lead blossomed from 43-37 to 52-41. Thanks to 9 straight Cardinal tallies by aforementioned Mr. Davis. A jumper at the shot clock. 45-37. Then a triple. 48-41. Followed by drive to the hoop. 50-41.

Then an offensive rebound, when he was clobbered — inadvertently — in the face. But still drained both FTs. 52-41.

Carlik Jones (18 points, 6 caroms, 4 dimes) hit a deep ball next trip down the hardwood, and the Cards had the beleaguered visitors measured, at 55-41.

* * * * *

Fouling could be an issue. Fortunately, it hasn’t done in Louisville yet.

* * * * *

Having watched a lot of hoops in the last week, I like it a lot better when the announcers are actually in the arena. They are able to better stay in the action.

I’ve got a theory about Jimmy Dykes, who called the game, and whom many fans just don’t like.

I think it’s his voice. A bit too stentorian, so it comes across sort of sermon on the mountainish. I get that. And there’s his SEC bias.

But he knows the game. He goes to practices. He stays involved in the action. And offers astute commentary.

Plus I liked his and play by play guy Mike Couzens’ riffing on Bill Murray. When Luke’s dad, again in the gym, was on the phone, Dykes asked, “Who you gonna call?”

Couzens offered how living in the bubble was like “Groundhog Day.”

And Dykes mentioned how one of Murray’s scenes in “Stripes,” was shot on the 2d Street bridge. True that. Though in the flick, Murray’s character is driving to the airport. Dramatic license, there.

* * * * *

Louisville gets an extra day’s rest, before facing NC Greensboro on Friday afternoon.

— c d kaplan