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Seedy K’s GameCap: Florida State

After a back and forth start on a rare Saturday night at the Yum!, the University of Louisville Cardinals took a 23-22 lead on a pair of Mike James FTs at the 7:55 mark of the 1st.

A light year, 55 combined fouls, 4 foul outs, 80 FTS, 34 turnovers, too many monitor checks and one of those big souvenir Dunking Cardinal-adorned boxes of popcorn fully consumed later, U of L survived Florida State, 101-92.

The game was a mess.

But the game was good.

Fun is winning.

However it looks.

With 5:14 left, Louisville led by 15, 82-67.

A minute and seven seconds later, that advantage was trimmed to 82-74.

At which point, the two combatants entered the Twilight Zone.

Turnover. Turnover. Turnover.

Florida State had a five point offensive trip, but lost its leading scorer Jalen Warley, with his 23 points on 9/10, 5/5 shooting.

The Cards cashed in at the FT line. A good thing, because if there’s anything the Seminoles know how to do really well, it’s commit fouls.

Not that the Cards were immune. At 2:17, Ty-Laur Johnson canned two FTs, to push the margin to 11.

From the bench, Coach Kenny Payne was loudly admonishing all, “No fouls. No fouls.”

Two seconds later, Johnson fouled Primo Spears, who responded with two freebies of his own.

Not long later in clock time, but interminable in real time, Curtis Williams fouled a three point shooter. Who fortunately clanked a couple of the charity tosses.

All of which is to say, how the Cardinals closed was, to put it delicately, “inelegant.”

But closed it they did in front of an adoring crowd, to notch their 7th W of the campaign, 2d in the league.

* * * * *

If there was a lesson reiterated in this one, it had to be: It’s really really really helpful to have a point guard.

Ty-Laur Johnson didn’t start but he was certainly the Player of the Game, fashioning far and away his best performance for Louisville.

27 points. 9/15 FGs. 9/10 at the line. 6 rebounds. 11 assists. Only three turnovers. Two steals. And a block.

Many of those dimes fed Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who owes the NYPG a dinner at least. The Cards pivot finished with 29 on 11/15 accuracy, because T-LJ kept getting him the ball in the right spot.

Since I’m inclined to contextualize from a historical perspective, I kept thinking how back in the halcyon days undersized forward Bobby Turner kept getting the rock at point blank range from frosh sensation Scooter McCray, a passing wizard.

Arguably the most fascinating stat of this upset victory to me is this. U of L won, despite getting zero points from its second and third leading scorers.

Skyy Clark wasn’t going to tally obviously. He was sitting on the bench in sweats with a hip pointer.

But Tre White, who just a game ago against Clemson scored 29, was shut out, taking but two shots.

Really?!??!

Like I’ve been trying to say, this victory couldn’t have been curioser.

* * * * *

I fully understand that Son of Coach Zan Payne’s presence on the hardwood has become the object of many fans’ ire toward his father. The walk on adds zero on the offensive end.

But he does play really solid D.

In this one, he also got under the skin of several Seminoles, further discombobulating them.

And he had the second best +/- on the night at +15. In only 7 minutes of action. BH-H was +16. While on the court for 35 minutes before succumbing to fouls.

So, I wanted to give the kid a shout out. He’s carrying a heavy load, and keeps on pluggin’, despite all.

* * * * *

One of the most beautiful games I ever saw U of L execute was the Metro Final against Florida State in March ‘78. The Roger Burkman game.

I was sitting in the endzone in Cincy, and the Cardinals’ O was beauteous. Flow and movement. Perfectly synchronized like a Patek Phillipe.

This one was more pratfallish. Keystone Kops.

But it was a WIN.

A good thing.

— c d kaplan