Maybe it’s that the game started and finished so late.
Could be dullness caused by NBC Sports mediocre announcers, who kept referring to Silent L as “Whore-El.” Which I must assume is how you pronounce Harrell, after spending the day swimming with dolphins in a 14 acre artificial pool.
Whatever, it’s the morning after, and I’m still having trouble finding perspective on last night’s thank-you-very-much-let’s-move-on escape against the Panthers.
Excuse me, while I pause for a second, figuring out where to start?
Okay, let’s go here.
* * * * *
Well, I know this. When the game was over, all the glee I felt at the 10:28 mark was gone.
At that juncture, the Cards had outscored the Panthers, 14-2, to start the second half, increasing the lead to 40-22 after a Luke Hancock three. Northern was forced to call a timeout to keep possession, after Louisville’s intense D trapped a Panther along the sideline. The guys from the corn belt were sucking air, had missed several wide open layups because of exhaustion and hadn’t tallied since Anthony James had scored the first bucket after intermission. (The drought would eventually extend for a stunning 10;30.)
Coming out of the timeout, U of L forced a shot clock violation.
The Cards were on cruise control. So was I. Maybe I’ll go to the fridge for just one more wafer thin slice of pecan pie to celebrate, thought I.
The Cards scored but 11 the rest of the way.
Northern twined 24.
With 2:06 left, the Cards’ lead had been cut to one, 45-44. I could feel the sweet potato swish in my stomach. (Okay, that’s just literary license, a phrase I’ve used to denote my nervousness. I hate sweet potatoes.)
I also invoked a long held aphorism, coined by Bunny Man: “Do not relinquish the lead.”
Which, to the Cards’ credit, they did not.
* * * * *
Of all U of L’s unexceptional play, one factor stands out for me.
It wasn’t that Russ thought he was playing in the Rucker Tournament, instead of the Bahamas. (He was so anxious to get the ball in his hands, he prematurely ran on court during intros, when Siva was being announced.) Nor the air balls. The 31% shooting from the field. Nor the offense that seemed way more static than it should have. Nor that triad of threeballs, Northern canned down the stretch, when Louisville looked like they’d pulled their Darnell Archey D out of the closet. (Archey, for the uninitiated, buried the Cardinals with treys for Butler, in Louisville’s first NCAA adventure of the Pitino Era.)
Nor that they let a safe lead slip away because of lack of focus. (Though that is a reason to fret.)
It was Gorgui’s game. Rather, the lack thereof.
Northern was able to take him totally out of rhythm. Yes, he grabbed 9 boards. But the Panthers’ double teaming seemed to have Dieng dazed and confused. He was 2/5 from the field. The misses were out of range jumpers. He blocked nary a shot.
Behanan also appeared MIA.
Then again, that reality could have been because Russdiculous showed up, wearing #2, and decided to play +1 playground ball. Or, that Siva had his most lackluster game in a long while.
* * * * *
But, there are positives.
Louisville was tested. By a solid Ben Jacobsen-coached team that knows how to play the game. Took a big hit, and survived.
In the end, literally and figuratively, the good guys were aided by the alternate possession rule that gave U of L the ball under its own hoop with seconds to play. Blackshear made a heady inbounds pass to Russ under the hoop for a quality +1 that sealed the deal.
The Cards held high scoring Northern Iowa to 46 points on 34% shooting.
It was a tough test. Tougher than it should have been perhaps.
But Louisville won. Survive and advance.
– Seedy K