Louisville Card File: Villanova

This is the way the season ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

Blowing a 17 point lead is not a good thing.

Okay, it may be too early for doomsaying, Cardinal fans, but the subject is on the table. Plus I like to use such openers, if only to prove to my English teachers that I read that T.S. Eliot guy.

The loss to the PhillyCats was most disheartening. It exposed the inherent weaknesses of this season’s edition of the U of L Cards.

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We’re always looking for a scapegoat, right?

So, I’m blaming the loss on Kelvin Sampson. Hoosiers fans can’t keep him as a villain all to themselves.

This came to me as I was decompressing from Louisville’s loss, watching Okie State vs. OOOOOOOOOOklahoma.

Recall that Scottie Reynolds was destined to be a Sooner. He’d committed when Sampson was there. Only after KS took his cellphones and abridged rule book to IU did Reynolds slip off to play for Jay Wright.

And wouldn’t the Cards have been a lot better off last night if Scottie were playing the second game of ESPN’s Big Monday double dip than in the first?

In a game where one of the two battered and bruised combatants needed a Rambo at crunch time, ‘Nova had one and Louisville didn’t. Reynolds hoisted his teammates on his shoulders, tallying the PhillyCats’ last 16 to keep the unrelenting if underwhelming Cards at bay.

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Just yesterday I wrote that somebody needed to light a fire under Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings. The latter remains a riddle wrapped up tight inside an enigma.

But Mardo came to play. So you shan’t hear a discouraging word about him from me. Unless, of course, he reverts back to the ol’ Samardo.

He was locked and loaded from the opening tip. He had two blocks in the first 1:15. In 35 minutes, he had 7 boards and hit all his shots, including all 13 at the line. He made all four of his FG attempts.

Which begs the query: Why didn’t he get the ball more?

Hey, you’re asking the wrong guy.

That he garnered so much PT in such an intense game is yet another sign that Jennings, for whatever strange reasons, isn’t ready to take the stage. What a friggin’ pity. That he was only worthy of 5 minutes on the floor in a game that contested is a disgrace.

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The most incisive observation during the game from one of the too-cute-for-their-own-good McDonough/Raftery/Bilas crew came from the fomer Doookie We Love To Hate. (But the guy knows ball.)

“When Sosa makes good decisions, Louisville is tough to beat.”

Actually Bilas the Barrister had another good line: “These teams are playing like the ball is a grenade with the pin pulled out.”

Unfortunately, as much as Sosa has matured, he’s far from being as solid as, say, Levance Fields. Which is not to say that Sosa hasn’t improved — he has — or is playing awful — he is not — but he’s simply so inconsistent. In that same opening sequence when Samuels was swatting away shots, Sosa gave the ball back to ‘Nova twice.

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Louisville’s D in the first 15 minutes was as intense as it’s been since the halcyon days of the early 80s. The Cards were simply alert. Yet, they kept giving the ball back. A typical sequence came with 7:21 to play in the 1st. U of L nabbed a steal, missed a shot, got the offensive board, missed another shot, got another ORB, then Knowles charged. 0 points. Then they stole the inbounds pass, resulting in a +1 for Sosa.

Louisville’s fate was sealed when they didn’t run out to a 25-30 point advantage in the first half. So much hard work on D resulted in less than expected offensive results.

In the 2d half, the Cards simply had zero offensive fluidity. Too few touches inside. Too many turnovers. Too much tom toming the ball. The worst interlude came with about 14:00 to play right after Villanova seized the lead. The Cards’ guards were stripped three straight trips down the court for bunnies at the other end. I hadn’t seen pilferage that clean since Texas Western’s Bobby Joe Hill kept pickpocketing Little Louie Dampier’s jockstrap in the ’66 NCAA title game at College Park.

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One semi bright spot for the Cards was Peyton Siva. He played nervous in the first, but steadied more than he has previously as a Cardinal in the second. U of L stormed back during his stint on the floor.

I also thought Buckles showed some improvement.

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The acid reality remains: If Louisville wants to go Dancing With The Stars in March, the team is going to have to get better and steadier. And they need to do it NOW. They’ll need to steal some wins on the road.

Looking like an NIT squad, the ’06-’07 edition smashed #7 Pitt and bopped #12 Marquette on the road in a five day period in late February. Then won at UConn a week later.

Do these guys have that in ‘em?

– Seedy K

3 Comments

  1. cbcard
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Good analysis. No matter how badly we failed to take advantage of our defense, especially in the first half, I think the ultimate cause of defeat is the two headed combo of being way too in love with the three and not getting Samardo the ball (I can’t believe I said the latter).

    He was playing his best game of the season, perhaps career, and was open at least six times in the second half without the ball even being thrown his way. Instead the gang that can’t shoot straight jacked up more clanging threes.

    Someone needs to pull the stats and chart them. I believe that the more three’s we take the lower our shooting percentage. I bet there is a number of attempts that when we shoot fewer than that number our % is much higher than when we attempt more than that number. Someone retired with time to spare (that would be you Charles David) needs to work the numbers.

  2. gnash001
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The good news is, even though Villanova scored 56 points in the second half, the Cards only lost by 8. The bad news is VILLANOVA SCORED 56 POINTS IN THE SECOND HALF!!!!

  3. fred
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    We have high expectations as UL basketball fans. But the truth is, ‘Nova has a better team. If you use the rankings as a guide, a MUCH better team. We matched up well with them because our best players are guards, as are theirs. But we don’t have a player as good as Scotty Reynolds. Hell, we don’t have a leader. But we lost to the #4 team in the country by 8. We lost to the #3 team in the country by 9 on their floor. And we were in both games until the final five minutes or so. That’s not all bad for a team that’s not in the top 25. We can play brilliantly in stretches but we can’t sustain it. We had “Nova on the ropes but we couldn’t keep up. They do play hard. They can play hard every game. What they lack is consistent execution on both ends of the floor. Let’s hope time will improve that.

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