While statistics never tell the entire tale, they help illuminate a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
On occasion, they also lie. Which happened yesterday.
I also believe in the eye test.
Watching how a game, or the games within a game, unfold, provides significant perspective.
On occasion, the eye test also lies. Which happened yesterday.
The official stat sheet marks Russ Smith with two turnovers in the last minute of the first half. Twice my eyes watched him throw the ball away. First on a breakout after he’d snared a rebound on a missed Bull trey. Again, after he grabbed another board when Harrell blocked a SoFla attempted dunk.
On both occasions, the Cards had numbers and Smith simply wasn’t able to successfully deliver the rock to a teammate for layup.
Anyone who remembers what Smith did at the end of the 4th OT in South Bend, as well as those who have watched him keep the ball all the way to the hoop throughout the season while ignoring open teammates, understands why those gaffes yesterday are a reason for hope.
Smith kept his head up, his eyes open and tried to make the correct play, instead of going for the streetball score as is his wont.
Despite the lack of execution yesterday — it will come — those two “turnovers” were indeed a positive sign for the Cardinals. Smith was trying to feed his mates. It’s a good thing.
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After the game, Rick Pitino praised U of L’s ball movement. He liked how the Cards passed the ball.
I’m inclined to praise the coach also. It was apparent that Louisville was running sets designed for more passing, less dribbling. Early on, the Cards were also adamant about getting the ball inside, though that waned somewhat once the game was in hand.
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Those of you who read me here know I love Wayne Blackshear and want to see him on the floor more.
I also think Kevin Ware can contribute a lot to U of L’s success. (Especially next season and beyond after he’s spent the summer working on his ball handling skills.)
So I was pleased as punch with the sequence yesterday when U of L took charge after falling behind 8-11. Kevin Ware threeball. Wayne Blackshear pull up J. Blackshear board. Ware jumper. Another Ware J. Blackshear offensive board and follow slam. Another Blackshear dunk, this time at the end of a fast break which commenced with a Smith steal, pass to Siva, assist to Siva. Blackshear cans 2 FTs. Blackshear steal, resulting in a Smith follow deuce.
After which 17-3 run, totally dominated by Ware and Blackshear, the Cardinals had the game in hand, 25-14.
Blackshear also closed the door once and for all in the 2d half. The Bulls crept within 6 at 36-30. The Rick reinserted Wayne in the lineup for Luke Hancock (rarely a bad move). After Smith hit two charity tosses, and a flurry of activity, Blackshear stole a pass and took it the length of the floor. Slam. 40-31. Any thoughts the home team had of coming back were extinguished.
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Louisville had significant advantages in almost all sub categories. Points in the paint (32-14), points off the bench (21-11. Ware and Blackshear didn’t start, even though ESPN showed Wayne’s face over Hancock’s name.) , fast break points (12-2), and points off turnovers (23-12).
The one aspect where Louisville didn’t play up to par was 2d chance points. They led that category 10-8, but allowed the Bulls 16 offensive boards.
Once again I’d call for the Cards to block out better. But since I’ve gotten on my high horse about that fundamental, I’ve noticed nationwide that the zebras often call fouls on guys simply for putting their butt in a foe’s belly to keep him off the boards.
Behanan missed two FTs early, Silent L, a couple late. The team canned the rest of them to go 13/17 at the line.
Louisville was only 2/13 from long range, proving you can control a game even if the treys aren’t dropping.
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Much has been made, justifiably so, of Chane Behanan’s marvelous hustle save of a ball going out of bounds and subsequent 25 foot behind the back assist to Russ under the hoop. It was indeed sweet. Not to mention it gave the Cards an 18 point cushion with 7:51 to play.
But there was a tit for tat. Russ returned the favor, going behind his back to Chane for a layup a few moments later for a 57-35 Louisville lead.
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Louisville for the most part played really good defense, generating 16 turnovers, while nabbing 10 steals and blocking 8 shots.
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Because we watch so much hoops on the telly, we develop our faves and undesirables when it comes to announcers. At least, I do.
Like Gus Johnson on the plus side, whom I love, even though it was most odd to hear him doing a Champions League fixture last week on Fox Soccer. And Bill Walton, whose over the top exuberance and willingness to say anything about anybody, is so welcome. And Jay Bilas, even though he’s a Dookie, because he’s so insightful and articulate.
Then there’s Bob “The Voice of Big East Basketball” Wenzel, who is as cloying and unprepared as they come. His “facts” are too often wrong, and delivered with volume cranked louder than Pete Townsend’s guitar.
When he called Pitino “a magician” at the top of yesterday’s telecast, I wanted to barf.
Rich Hollenberg wasn’t much better. He dubbed the half full arena, a “near capacity crowd.” And, segueing in after a timeout when South Florida was making its second half run, he said the Cards were “comfortably ahead,” which at that moment, they were not.
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Two walkovers coming up — Seton Hall and DePaul — before the regular season closes with three serious tilts in a row.
– Seedy K