Some observations, the morning after U of L’s 73-64 loss to Michigan State in East Lansing.
True road games are tough!
Especially in front of a genuinely hostile crowd.
Given the team’s scatterbrained nature of play.
More composed, experienced teams get to the free throw line more.
Here’s the gotcha:
Those are the words of my favorite hoops scribe, the eminent Eamonn Brennan, when writing about Duke’s performance in its defeat in the ACC/ Big10 Smackdown in Columbus to Ohio State.
But they surely could be Seedy K’s about the Cards last night, and their spotty performance in Chris Mack’s first regular season coaching appearnace after a six game suspension.
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Hearkening back to my macroview, stated several times already, I’ll posit one more once.
Given the squad turnover, given a new offense, given Mack’s suspension, no long term take on this edition of the U of L Cardinals will be legit until at least Dick Clark’s reported on the Ball Drop from Times Square. Possibly even later, the Ides of January.
So, what I feel I must remember is: In many regards this was the first game of the season.
On the road. Against a legit, well-coached, talented Top 25 team. (Boasting the nation’s second highest rated D.)
In a genuinely hostile environment. (I love how it’s a rabid student section that surrounds the court in the Breslin Center. If only . . .)
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The chance for victory in such situations are increased if you can put the biscuit in the basket.
After a 12-2 Spartan surge, State led 52-39 at a TV timeout with 12:14 left.
At that juncture, Noah Locke (0-7), Matt Cross (1/6), Samuell Williamson (0/1) and Jae’Lyn Withers (1/2), Louisville’s 1st, 2d, 5th and 6th leading scorers had 5 (five) points on 2/16 shooting.
It is tough to over come that.
My point is not to throw these Cards under the bus.
It is up to U of L’s purported guru OC Ross McMains and Mack to get these fellows the rock in spots where these scorers have the optimum opportunity to tally.
Locke appears more capable as a spot up, or one dribble/ shoot guy. Fashion some sets to free him in those situations.
Williamson’s best game is 10-12’ from the hoop, but isn’t a great ball handler. Fashion some sets to free him in those situations.
Cross can both spot up and take it to the rim. Actually he had a couple of semi-open looks, but the ball didn’t find the twine.
Withers’, one guy’s opinion, doesn’t seem to be workin’ to make it work quite as hard as last season. When, by most accounts, he was playing out of position.
So, it says here, for U of L to have some quality O from here on, these guys need to get the ball where they can do some damage. Let’s see if the staff can coach it up.
Plus they need to run the offense crisply, using good technique with intensity.
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Bless Malik Williams’ heart.
The kid simply isn’t very mobile. And has limited hops.
But he battles. He leads.
So, another factor in the Cards’ success moving forward will be the development of relief in the pivot.
Roosevelt Wheeler, still raw, is showing signs that he’s going to get it.
Mack is enamored with Gabe Wiznitzer, who also saw his first action of the campaign last evening.
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There’s a reason why Jarrod West and Dre Davis were the only Cardinals to see more than thirty minutes of action against State.
West for his maturity, steadiness, leadership and great defense.
Dre Davis, somewhat flawed as his game might be, is R E L E N T L E S S.
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Which brings me to a consideration of El Ellis, without whom the Cardinals L last night would have been significantly embarrassing.
He scored 18 of Louisville’s last 19 points.
He was ballin’ like he was still down in Tallahassee, dominating in the Bill Hebrock EagleDome.
His 8/12 (4/7, 2/2) scoring stat line is way more than acceptable.
The former Juco phenom can play out of control. More than occasionally. But last night, even during that en fuego finale, he was somewhat under control. He drove to the hoop a couple of times, but didn’t throw up any of those cockamamie twisting bank shots. One attempt to dish it to Williams was thwarted by stellar Sparty D.
If he plays with a modicum of control, within the new, increased flow of the offense, it will be, duh, a good thing.
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U of L had 10 assists on 25 made FGs. Contrast: State had 20 assists on 23 FGs.
U of L was -13 in fast break points. And -15 bench points.
So, yeah, I’m bummed. I hate when the Cardinals fall.
And I’m wondering whether Sidney Curry and JJ Traynor are going to contribute at all. Wondering whether they, and maybe Mason Faulkner, are the ones Mack was talking about when mentioning a few guys need to get with the plan.
(Actually it’s time for all, coaching staff and squad, to roll up their sleeves and get to work.)
But it was a true road game. Against a legit Top 25 team, yada, yada, yada, you’ve heard me say it already.
On December 1. The pop up Christmas tree stands still have plenty of inventory. Holiday traffic by the Malls and along the Dixie is just ramping up.
ACC play opens Saturday at NC State. The Wolfpack needed four OTs to down visiting Nebraska last night.
— c d kaplan