Louisville Card File: Samford

It is early in the season. Very early.

Louisville, as is its wont in the Pitino Era, has opened with two walkovers.

But I have seen enough to believe that, yes, the Cardinals are legit, a school with enough stature to be considered in the national title discussion. (Forget please that puff piece I wrote in LEO’s basketball issue, in which I stated beyond peradventure that the Cards would win the national title. It was for entertainment purposes only.)

I mention this at the top, so you will understand my perspective as the season progresses. My focus is on the improvement that is imperative for the Cards to land in the Final Four for the second straight season. Then win those two games in Atlanta for the crown.

What a long, strained trip it shall be.

* * * * *

My take is the most important moment of the game came with 12:16 to play.

Luke Hancock had been ofer 5 from the field in the first half, three of those attempts from beyond the arc. He had committed a turnover on the Cards’ first possession of the game, something he’s done before.

He started the second stanza with a good trey.

He missed his next attempt from Treyville. And his next. And his next. And his next. And his next. And his next.

After the last of those six straight errant attempts, the crowd murmur sounded disturbingly more like “Boo” than “Luke.”

At 12:16, he was fouled, and proceeded to miss his first FT attempt. At which juncture, those murmurs kicked up a notch.

Russ Smith was at midcourt. He immediately started raising his arms, imploring the crowd to cheer for Luke. It was a significant leadership moment. An I’m there with you in the foxhole moment.

Hancock hit the second charity toss. And was immediately replaced in the lineup by Kevin Ware. He sat for the rest of the game.

Hats off to Not So Russdiculous. His standing by his man was THE play of the game. (By the by, you can talk about Smith’s crazy shots all you want, his 18 points came on 50% shooting from the field, including 4/7 from downtown.)

As for co-captain Hancock, school is still out. We’ve seen this scenario before. The Rick heralds a player, who never approaches living up the coach’s hype.

I’m not the only guy on press row, or in the stands, who has turned to the closest guy and offered, “I don’t get Luke.”

To be fair, the fellow is coming off a couple of surgeries. He hasn’t played competitively since a season before last. And, all that mid major adulation garnered by George Mason notwithstanding, suiting up there ain’t like wearing red & black on the Yum! hardwood.

So I — we — must be patient with Luke Hancock. And pray The Rick is right, that those threeballs will eventually start dropping, that the fellow’s got game.

* * * * *

The truth is this.

If Blackshear and Ware continue to improve, continue to play to expectations and talent potential, Hancock’s minutes will be diminished organically.

Wayne Blackshear started to show some life last night in a starting role. Thirteen points, 5 boards and steady D in 24 minutes of action. After the last game, I said The Rick needed to let him play into the flow. Finally coach is listening to me. As if.

Kevin Ware continues to blossom. The guy is quick. The guy is long. And, the guy can levitate. His lay in on a set up alley oop from Siva with a minute and a half to play before intermission was balletic.

* * * * *

Chane Behanan got the memo on rebounding. Read it. Twice.

Eighteen boards — 9 offensive, 9 defensive — is huge. He tallied 12 for a double double.

He played so well I shan’t quibble over the time late in the opening half when he took it end to end, despite ball handling teammates on his flank, and missed two consecutive layups on the possession.

* * * * *

How much has Gorgui Dieng improved?

Well, he scored 10 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out 5 assists, committed nary a turnover . . . and we’re inclined not to take that much notice. Ho hum, another steady game by Gorgui.

It’s easy to forget that Dieng was a recruiting afterthought, a consolation prize when Syracuse stole Fab Melo on signing day. The former is on a collision course with a second Final Four; the latter, whiling away his time, stoned and bleary eyed on the Celtics bench.

* * * * *

Louisville’s 23% (7/31) shooting from beyond the arc was, as disturbing as it is and should be, not the offensive stat of most concern.

The Cards were 17/30 from the FT line. Champions make more than 56% of their free throws.

On the other hand, the 53 to 28 rebound advantage was impressive.

* * * * *

Here’s a most coincidental statistic.

For the second game in a row, U of L held its opponent to the exact same assist/ turnover ratio in the opening half.

One assist. 16 turnovers.

No matter the level of opposition, that’s a championship number.

* * * * *

I had a nice chat with former Cardinal star Jerry King before the game. People always talk about how clutch Milt Wagner was at the line with the game in the balance. He had nothing on King, who never — literally, never — missed an important FT at crunch time.

He’s recovering from a stroke, but still looks mahvelous.

– Seedy K

3 Comments

  1. gnash001
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Mike Lawhon was another who never missed the important ones.

  2. fred
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I have told you, and everyone else who will listen, that, being fortunate enough to attend a practice last year, saw a Luke Hancock who was without a doubt the best player, end to end, on the floor that day. He has had double shoulder surgery. I have no doubt he will improve more than any other Cardinal over the course of the season. I can’t really tell you anything from a win over Samford other than UL plays remarkable defense and they play hard. They are quick, they are long, they are deep and they are experienced. But if they are going to make a deep run in March/April, they will need more offense than that provided by Russ and Gourgi.

  3. fred
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Jerry King is perhaps one of the most underrated player to have ever worn the uniform. Great player, smooth jump shot and a great guy, too. I have a picture in my files of Jerry on the last night at Freedom Hall. In this letter sweater he looked like he could still suite up and play.

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