A Tale of Two Halves.
It was the Best of Times. It was the Worst of Times.
Others less literary or charitable, might call it Schizophrenic.
Whatever you call it, a different U of L team came out for the second half of last night’s hang on W @ Seton Hall. It was as if they replaced the front line players with understudies. A more apt analogy is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” as if the real Cardinals had been mysteriously replaced by pods that weren’t really them.
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In the first half, Louisville was well tuned, looking to even objective observers, like a team poised to make a serious stretch run toward tournament time.
Best of Times: A solid 15 point lead away from home against a well-coached foe. Nine assists on 14 made FGs. A 7 rebound advantage. 4/10 from beyond the arc. Nine assists, a couple of steals and 3 blocks. Rock solid defense, which held the Pirates to 28% shooting (7/25) and only one made trey in 11 tries, allowing acquittal for 8 Louisville turnovers.
In the second half Louisville was poo poo kah kah.
Worst of Times: U of L committed more turnovers (16) — 7 by its point guard — than shots it attempted (15). Of all the years I’ve been paying attention to statistics, that may be the most heinous of all. Truly inexplicable. Truly unacceptable. Two assists on 6 made FGs. (Yes, U of L only put the ball through the hoop from the field six times after the break.)
Louisville played the second half like they’d been whupped with an ugly stick during the intermission.
At one point, Seton Hall missed 8 shots in a row. And was still in the game, well within striking distance.
How bad was U of L’s play in the second half? Check out this sequence:
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For all ye who would take referee Jim Burr’s name in vain, please remember that he may have saved the Cardinals from ignominious defeat last night.
The Rick went Dana Kirk, using up his last timeout with 2:41 to play. At a time when it was obvious the game was going down to the wire, because Louisville couldn’t get the ball past mid court. And the Pirates, no matter how many point blank shots they missed, were getting enough second, third and fourth chances to keep whittling away at the precarious lead.
At 55-50, with 1:24 to go, the Cardinals actually got it past the timeline, at which juncture, Russ Smith was pinned against the sideline and decided to get in touch with his inner Chris Webber, calling a timeout U of L didn’t have. If the technical had been whistled, Seton Hall would have had two free tosses and possession.
Instead, for some reason never explained, Burr blew his whistle, stopped play, then gave the ball to the Cards out of bounds. “Bad whistle’ proclaimed the less than astute announcers, as if that terminology is somewhere to be found in the rule book.
Great Escape is what I’d call it.
With an assist from Herb Pope’s ineptitude at the line, Louisville slipped out of Newark with the W. Don’t look back, fellas, the B-ball deities might change their minds.
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In his post game comments, The Rick was surprisingly upbeat. He opined that Louisville played great defense.
Which they may have, but don’t forget this inalienable fact: Seton Hall is A.W.F.U.L.
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The Rick also committed that which, for me is his most unpardonable of sins. He dissed one of his players publicly for no reason and no purpose whatsoever.
In his comments, he stated that Gorgui Dieng didn’t play a very good game. Way to nurture your most valuable player, coach, really a classy move.
The Cardinal center tallied 11 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked 5 shots, altered at least three times that many, and was a game changing presence — literally — in the middle.
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You know what the sages say. A win is a win is a win. So it is.
Next up on the circus ride of a season: Rutgers at the Yum!
– Seedy K