My first inclination with today’s post was to do something outré to register my anger — like leaving the space blank, with a brief mention at the end that St. John’s is next up — so disgusted am I with last night’s performance at South Bend.
(Which is different, for me anyway, than disgust over the loss. Losses happen, especially on the road in February in league play. How a team plays, how it meets a challenge, is more telling. That’s what I find so disheartening about last night’s 65 minute, snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory wobble against Notre Dame.)
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I will start at the top.
Rick Pitino coached an awful game.
Truth be told, his work thus far this season would not garner a very positive performance report. C- perhaps.
During a pregame interview, The Rick mentioned as how Mike Brey’s teams always defend Louisville’s pick and roll offense really well, so he’d need to come up with something different to combat that.
After which, U of L ran essentially the same offense it has all year. Ball screen at the top of the key for Siva or Smith, featuring lots of dribbling, scarce movement by the other players or the ball and few open shots set up by the scheme. You know, the ol’ pick and roll.
How is it that the Irish’s bigs could get the ball on the block, close enough for them to turn and score without having to back their man down or put the ball on the floor? While it was totally different for Behanan, who played a stellar game, and Dieng, each of whom received the ball away from their comfort spots and had to bust hump for a clear look at the hoop.
I do not fault Pitino at all for his normal strategy of not calling a timeout to set up a last shot. That, at this point of their careers, Siva and Smith haven’t been taught how to make things happen in those situations, settling for abysmal shots and missed opportunities, is bad execution as a result of less than good coaching.
Which brings me to my favorite bone to pick, the Hancock/ Blachshear situation.
Despite his poor shooting, Luke played a darn good game last night, arguably his best as a Cardinal. He played loose, firing away, unafraid to go for it. That’s a good thing.
What vexes me is why? My first guess is he looked at the opponent and realized that he was an equal athletically, so felt comfortable doing more. More salient, I believe, is this. He senses he’s the coach’s pet and that he’s not going to be pulled for the same transgressions on the court as others, so he’s less tight.
If only Pitino would allow Wayne Blackshear the same latitude. U of L’s other SF was coming off his career game, 19 points in 14 minutes at Rutgers. He returned to the starting lineup. But played only played 20 minutes of the 65 contested, launching but three shots and scoring 0 points. (Hancock was on the floor 46 minutes.)
So, why is it that Hancock isn’t hesitant to launch, while Blackshear is?
One guy’s opinion: lack of confidence that he has his coach’s confidence.
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It is obvious from this Cardinal edition’s late game meltdowns that, so far, it does not have the will to win. It needs more Preston Knowles fire. The take charge energy that Larry O’Bannon displayed when he willed the Cards to victory over West Virginia in the regional final.
Louisville led 58-51 with :42 to play in regulation.
Yes, Jerian Grant morphed into Michael Jordan, scoring 12 points in the last :45 of play. 12 points. 45 seconds.
It was still Louisville’s game to close. Simply stated, the Cards didn’t. Then . . .
U of L didn’t score to win on the final possession of the first OT.
U of L didn’t score to win on the final possession of the second OT.
U of L didn’t score to win on the final possession of the third OT.
U of L blew another lead — 4 points with less than a minute to play — to end the 4th OT.
In the final extra period, Notre Dame, playing without its best players as it had for 30 minutes, was carpe diem.
Louisville was not.
– Seedy K