Given that there is an adjustment period at the beginning of every game, how the opening played out in this one is not especially unusual. Or disconcerting. To me anyway.
Louisville started out focused, energetic and hot.
Especially El Ellis who had 11 already at the initial media timeout, on 4/4 (3/3) shooting. He also had a sweet drive and dish on the Cards’ opening possession, his second in consecutive games. JJ Traynor made a sweet move for the delivery and the hoop.
The Cards lead moments later blossomed to 18-9.
The Blue Devils then steadied, running off 13 in a row.
They kept the Cards measured the rest of the way.
Some garbage points at the end, when Kenny Payne emptied the bench, made the final a somewhat deceiving 79-62.
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Louisville’s play of late in microcosm was on display in the 2d at Cameron Indoor from opening possession until the 13:41 mark.
U of L turned it over on possessions #2 and #3, resulting in 5 points by the home team.
But an Ellis deuce before a media stoppage cut the margin, 9 at the break, to 39-51. -12.
At the point in the tilt, both teams were shooting 48%.
But U of L had given it away 8 times, and Duke tallied 14 off the gaffes. While the Cardinals only had a couple points off 3 Duke turnovers. -12.
The Blue Devils, which had scored on several uncontested back door slams in the 1st, had 24 points in the paint. As opposed to U of L’s 12. -12
-12 on the scoreboard. -12 points off turnovers. -12 points in the paint.
I trust you get my point(s).
Which is that the telling components of the Cardinals’ disappointing campaign aren’t that hard to figure out. Not that there aren’t other flaws.
The couple of minutes after that stoppage are also typical.
The Good: Kenny Payne called a nifty play in the huddle, which ended with a cool back cut to the hoop and an Ellis feed to Sydney Curry for a layup.
More than offset by the Bad: On two of the next three Duke trips, they snared offensive rebounds off missed Blue Devil FT, hitting second chance triples both times.
So, at that 13:41 mark, Louisville was down 42-59.
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To their credit, the Cards did not fold.
With 2:50 left, U of L pulled within 10 for the fourth time in four minutes or so. 62-72.
They were playing the Blue Devils even.
Then they ran out of gas, unable to score the rest of the way.
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Co-ACC Player of the Week El Ellis scored 21. He notched 7 assists, but committed 4 turnovers.
He is obviously invaluable to this edition of the Cardinals, indispensable to be frank. And he is improving, along with his mates.
Yet still makes questionable decisions for a leader/ PG.
At 22-29, he had the ball on a 2 on 1 fastbreak. Instead of passing the ball to an open Mike James on his right, Ellis took it to the hoop. Yes, he got fouled and made the FTs. A pass was the play.
JJ Traynor, shaking off an ankle injury late, scored 16 on 6/10 marksmanship. 4/5 from beyond the arc.
He was the only Cardinal with a positive +/-. +2 in 27 minutes.
Brandon Huntley-Hatfield went for 9 and 5.
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The red throwback unis the Cards wore were even cooler than the last throwbacks.
These had Dunking Cardinals on the shorts.
Manny Okorafor was again a DNP with an ankle injury.
Next: Georgia Tech in Hot ‘Lanta on Saturday.
— c d kaplan