With 2:42 to play, and Louisville leading 58-50, Gorgui Dieng missed the front end of a 1 and 1.
It was the only FT U of L missed in the second half of the narrow W over Pitt. The Cards were 10/11 after the break. After Pitt’s Tray Woodall missed the front end of a one and bonus, Chane Behanan hit a pair with :24 on the clock to increase the Cards’ precarious lead to five. Dieng hit a couple with :12.7 to play, increasing the Cards’ margin to four. After Sub of the Night Tim Henderson snared a board on a missed Panther trey, Russ Smith drained two more important charity tosses with :04.2 to go, for a six point lead. Meaning Woodall’s long ball at the buzzer signified nothing.
All of which tells me this. The severely short-handed Cardinals were resolute about breaking their three-game losing skein.
While Louisville played far from a national championship-quality game, the team was alert from the get go — 3/4s of the way through the first half, the lead was 11 on 11/20 shooting with 6 steals and 3 blocks. The team stayed intense and, once they got the game in hand late in the opening stanza, kept Pitt measured.
The performance was not a thing of beauty. The final score (64-61) was.
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Louisville is far from the only squad in the land that doesn’t block out. This most basic of techniques is missing in today’s game. Ballers seem intent on relying on their physical abilities alone, instead of combining that with fundamental soundness.
The Cards were only outrebounded on the offensive boards by four, 15-19. But the results were markedly different. Louisville turned those second chances into 10 points. While Pitt tallied 25.
Put down your abacus, I’ll do the math. U of L was -15 in second chance points.
The flip side came at the FT line. The Cards were 13/17 for the game. The visitors went a pitiful 3/12. That spells “Ballgame!!!”
Make free throws. Good things happen. Block out and grab rebounds. Better things happen.
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The Rick deftly stole clock, especially at the end of the opening half with Henderson and Dark Slime on the court. When the Cards hit only 2/11 with funky lineups during that segment, I kept thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice to have Angel Nunez to put in?
But he’s a Zag now.
My sense is the future of Kevin Ware as a Cardinal is on shaky ground. I’m advised he was none too pleased with his short stints on the court recently and, as the story goes, let The Rick know that in one manner or another. Coach was not pleased.
Hopefully Wayne Blackshear’s “minor shoulder injury” is just that. His history of shoulder issues would warn us otherwise.
The last bit of innuendo I can pass along is the rumor about what happened at Friday’s practice. As has been whispered, Pitino was on Gorgui so hard that Dieng snapped, went after the coach, and had to be restrained by teammates.
Whether true or not, Dieng was back on his feed last night. 14 points on stellar shooting. 12 rebounds. Five blocks. Four assists, including two no look bounce passes behind him. (Which reminded me of 60s Cardinal pivot Bud Olsen, who was the master at that type of assist.)
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New offensive sets were spotted last night. More movement. More passing. It’s a good thing. That pick and roll has been getting easier to defense.
Peyton Siva still dribbled too much, but his 10 assists were huge. U of L must have had 5 open dunks after the break, as a result of Siva breaking down the D and getting the ball inside.
Russ Smith — Ho Hum — tallied 20 on 7/15 shooting.
All the way around, a flawed but feisty W. Much needed, to say the least.
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Despite the Cards’ recent travails, they still rank 2d nationally in Assist/Turnovers, and #3 in steals/game.
To give this game some perspective, 17-4 Pitt had won four in a row. That included three consecutive road wins, including a 15 point W at Villanova. Pitt won at Georgetown, 73-45.
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It was fun listening to Bill Raftery and Pitt commentator Dick Groat swap stories before the game. Not only was Groat MVP for the ’60 World Champ Pirates, he was an All-American basketballer at Duke. For a guy in his 80s, he’s in great shape. Actually he’s in great shape for a guy in his 50s.
Loved the blurb on the big screen as Boogie Man was dancing: “This is the business he’s chosen.”
Now that eminent ESPN pundit Jay Bilas has publicly declared the Yum! to be “the best of the new arenas,” can we please stop asking that grating question during those inane timeout interviews? Please.
– Seedy K