There’s this little thing I do, a game I play with myself when I want to check my intuition about something.
It isn’t always about an upcoming game I care about. But it is a lot of times.
I’ll ask myself a question that requires a yes or no answer.
And then allow the answer to dart up from whatever deep recesses of my brain such would come. I do my best to allow my subconscious to answer without forcing the response I’m hoping for.
Which I can’t always do. Sometimes what I hear in my mind is “Yeeeeeenoooooo.” And I never trust the response, knowing I’m trying to will it.
But sometimes, the answer is not only immediate, but definitive and emphatic.
Like Friday, when I inquired of self, “Self, is Louisville going to beat Duke?”
As much as I rethought it, that really never wavered. I believed.
Yes, my knees were knockin’ a bit when, at 52-53, U of L relinquished what was once a dozen point lead, with David Johnson on the bench with four fouls. More so, after a couple missed free throws, and the Blue Devils converted a 1+1 to go up 3.
But I never lost faith, and neither did the Louisville Cardinals, who swept the season series with Duke, winning in Cameron Indoor for the second consecutive season.
How many teams have done either of those things in the Coach K era, I wonder? The Tar Heels, maybe, who else?
U of L also increased its winning percentage over Krzyzewski-coached Blue Devil squads to 9-6.
How many other schools which have played the Evil Empire under You Know Whom at least ten times have done that, I do not wonder?
Correct answer: None.
Only the Cardinals have a winning record.
Saturday’s final: Louisville 80, Duke 73.
I’m not going to say anything absurd, like I made it happen. Just that I believed.
Ya know, every once in awhile . . .
* * * * *
So, I keep smiling at the memory of hearing this earlier on an all college hoops Saturday.
“I like Duke to win big.”
Not gonna happen, Dan Dakich, thought I, when he offered that.
* * * * *
Louisville closed the deal without three starters.
Two fouled out: David Johnson and Jae’Lyn Withers. Their mates stepped up.
The other is more problematic: Malik Williams.
He hurt himself late in the 1st apparently. He clanked a couple FTs. Doc called and wondered if I noticed whether the recently returned pivot had hobbled off the court at intermission?
I had not, but was relieved when Williams was on the court to start the 2d.
That was short-lived. He was soon on the pine, masked, out for the remainder of the battle.
Hopefully it’s not for the remainder of the season. If so, any chance of significant success is faint. U of L’s a totally different team with him playing, even at 60-70% efficiency.
* * * * *
U of L held steady late, and overcame a gaffe here and a blunder there.
That kid off the bench was yet again as solid as any.
Steady Quinn Slazinski* was Gibraltar in OT.
He opened the extra five with an all net trey, to give the Cardinals a lead they never relinquished. Out of a Duke timeout at 3:06 in the extra, he delivered a dime to Withers for a deuce and a key +1. 73-67.
With :25 left to victory, he drew Matthew Hurt’s 5th foul, then sonatacized string music on the FTs. 78-73.
* * * * *
As has been his modus operandi as of of late, Sam Williamson came up huge in the 2d.
In the 1st, he tallied 2, but only took 2 shots. Still he led the Cardinals with 7 rebounds at the break, adding a couple assists.
He played all 25 after intermission, adding 12 points and five more boards for another double double.
When it was back and forth late, he excelled, scoring a deuce to retake the lead at 58-57. Then draining two FTs, after a rare Hurt miss, for a 60-57 advantage.
* * * * *
With that scrubby chin hair, Blue Devil Matthew Hurt is easy to, you know, “dislike with extreme prejudice.” There always seems to be a Dukie like that. He’s not Grayson Allen, mind you. But he’s just too damn good, and you want him to go away.
Hurt had 16 in the 1st, on 8/10 marksmanship.
I noted during the 11:02 media stoppage in the 2d, that he’d been held to only three after the teams returned to the court.
Then he went off. A couple of possessions later, he drew DJ’s fourth foul and converted an old fashioned three point play. Then, with his Cardinal nemesis on the pine, he did it again. Then he drained a new school three. He continued, scoring the Blue Devil’s next four points.
He finished with 37, more than half of his team’s total, on 15/21 shooting.
But he was sayonara, when Slaz did his thing at the crunch.
So were the Dukies.
* * * * *
Indispensable Carlik Jones proved himself human.
He missed a couple FTs. Tsk, tsk.
One at :37 to play in regulation, with the score knotted at 65. Then after Withers gathered in the errant charity toss, ICJ was off target on a J at the buzzer that would have won it then and there.
It’s memorable, because the grad transfer extraordinaire is so clutch.
And, of course, I’m simply babbling stupid. Do not — I repeat do not — think for a second I’m actually dissing ICJ.
ICJ stands for, after all, Indispensable Carlik Jones. Which may actually be underestimating his importance to this edition of the Cards.
He scored 7 of Louisville’s 15 in the extra session. 25 for the game. 6 rebounds. 4 assists.
Just as important, he led with maturity and savvy. He’s unflappable.
Besides ICJ and Sam, Withers was the Cards’ third double figure scorer, with 16, and nine rebounds. He again proved how much more comfortable and effective he is at the 4 spot.
JW had a quick start. 7 points at the 11:25 media timeout of the first, including a shot clock-beating threeball.
He netted two huge freebies late in regulation to give Louisville some distance at 62-57.
* * * * *
Louisville’s focus and intensity were evident from the opening tip.
Part of the Cards’ plan was to dominate underneath.
In the 1st, U of L was +8 in paint points, +10 off the glass, 6-0 in 2d chance points because the Cardinals snared 8 offensive boards, while holding the Dookies to none. As in zero. A goose egg.
Louisville brought it on D all night.
It had Chris Mack ecstatic.
“Our defense from the 15-minute mark down to the end of the half was lights-out, phenomenal. Malik [Williams] going out hurt us in the second half, we couldn’t play as many guys, [David Johnson] gets in foul trouble, so we weren’t as nasty and as stiff on the defensive end as we needed to be, but we got stops when we needed them.”
And, take note Joey Brackets, the Louisville Cardinals, playing in OT without three starters, got a victory in Durham, N.C., when it needed it.
Next up: Hokey Pokey.
— c d kaplan