Rare are the times when one sequence of back and forth, offensive and defensive possessions bring certitude to a particular encounter, as well as provide insight into each program’s status and potential for the entire season.
It happened though in last evening’s 77-65 Cardinal W, one guy’s opinion, in the interlude coming out of a timeout with 2:04 to play, at which instant the game was almost, but not quite secured.
To get that juncture was a thirty eight minute Son of Beast roller coaster ride at King’s Island.
U of L opened the tilt with focus at both ends, but fell behind early, taking the lead, 10-9, on a Sam Williamson trey. That began a 16-0 surge, which included fulsome five for five accuracy from long range.
Wake Forest settled, fashioned a zone that caused issues, Louisville got in some foul trouble, and U of L’s once 14 point advantage was cut to four, at 35-31.
Then an 11-3 turnaround put the Cards up a dozen at the break, 46-34.
A couple of pilfers and end-to-end runout tallies to open the 2d — first, Carlik Jones, then Dre Davis — forced first year coach Steve Forbes to call a stoppage a minute and a half in, his team down 16 to the visiting Cardinals.
Then things got blacker in Winston-Salem for the league leading visitors than U of L’s unis.
Foul trouble for David Johnson and Jae’lyn Withers. Then Dre.
CJ was cramping. (Later Davis suffered the same electrolyte depletion.)
Louisville stopped guarding.
Louisville stopped scoring.
Louisville stopped moving.
The Demon Deacons scored 18, against only three by the Cardinals, a JJ Traynor FT, and Carlik’s improbable underhanded, sideways layup.
With 12:14 to play: Louisville 53, Wake Forest 52.
I wrote the word HORRIBLE in the margin of my notes, circling it with such force, my pen tore through the legal pad.
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Then U of L steadied, scoring on five straight possessions, never relinquishing the lead.
Carlik Jones proved again why I feel compelled to reiterate in every gamecap that he is INDISPENSABLE, driving into the paint for a deuce. 55-52.
Next trip, after Williamson snared the board, Dre Davis was strong on a post up. 57-52.
On the ensuing foray, Davis continued his mighty play, making a FT. 58-52.
Sam Williamson, playing easily his best game for Louisville, grabbed another errant Demon Deacon shot, which led to another Jones fastbreak drive to the dish. 60-52.
Then Sam scored, after Wake broke its drought. 62-54.
The Cards were clear, if not totally out of the woods. (To mix a couple metaphors.)
Though Davis continued to compete so fiercely he was cramping up, Louisville couldn’t shake Wake. On several trips, there was no offensive movement.
Josh Nickelberry made a really immature play with the Cards up 11, resulting in a turnover, when a steady possession would have sealed the deal.
Then came the moment I mentioned in the lede.
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After two Jones FTs increased the Cardinals’ margin, timeout was called at 2:04.
72-63 was the score.
The tilt was still not secure.
Then we learned this.
Wake is Wake. Danny Manning left the cupboard bare for Forbes, who could very well turn it around. But not yet. His team now is more Demon than Deacons.
Just eight seconds into their possession out of the stoppage, when a score was imperative for any chance at victory, Daivien Williamson jacked up an ill advised threeball. It wasn’t close. Carlik pulled down the miss.
Then . . .
. . . Cardinals be the Cardinals. Fitful as they play at times, the rookies continue to improve, Jones continues to lead, Johnson dishes the rock, Sam is breaking through, and this edition of U of L hoops seems to fashion a way.
DJ found Sam beyond the arc. Nothing but net.
The game was won, the programs defined.
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I love love love how Dre Davis played down the stretch. Until his muscles wouldn’t work anymore.
15 points. (11 in the 2d.) A couple offensive boards. An assist. A steal.
Double Double for Sam, the man Card fans have been waiting to see.
Williamson netted 15 on 5/7, 3/4 marksmanship. Cleaned 11 misses off the glass.
Carlik Jones. Ho hum. Double Double. 23 points. 10 rebounds. 3 assists. 3 steals. A block.
JJ Traynor continues to impress me. At both ends. 7 points. 2 rebounds. 3 blocks. D.
Plagued with foul issues most of the night, some of his own making, David Johnson still delivered 9 dimes. Only one turnover.
Charles Minlend saw his first action, :59 in the 1st. You could tell he needs to get in game shape, and practice enough to learn what U of L is doing.
Just having him on the court for the first time is a positive.
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Conference W on the road: Always a good thing, however woeful the foe might be.
Next, fingers always crossed in these COVID times, Miami, Saturday night in Coral Gables.
— c d kaplan