For weeks now, I’ve been complaining that The Rick has given Luke “Best Player on the Team” Hancock undeserved playing time, while not allowing SF cohort Wayne Blackshear to play his way to confidence.
During halftime yesterday, another Hancock naysayer and I admitted to each other that it’s obvious Hancock has been bringing more to the hardwood in the last couple of weeks than Blackshear.
Hancock at Syracuse displayed toughness and tenacity and a will to win, which Pitino has assured the fans was present, but hadn’t appeared until recently. (None of us outside the closed Cardinal family knew the extent of his shoulder injury.)
Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware were the Players of the Game, and the reason for victory . . . along with Gorgui and Russ.
U of L’s bench (including Van Treese and Silent L) were 7/10 from the field, including 5/7 from beyond the arc. Reserves grabbed 10 of the Cardinals’ 36 rebounds, grabbing 4 of the Cards’ 9 swipes.
Luke’s line of 12 points and 2 steals hardly tells the tale. When the game was knotted @ 48, he stole the inbounds Orange pass. After a Cardinal timeout, he dropped in a trey on a great assist from Russ Smith for a 51–48 advantage.
(At this juncture, let me take a moment to praise Rick Pitino’s coaching. Unlike the vast majority of his college coaching brethren, Pitino was savvy enough to go 2 for 1. Hancock fired away at :53, meaning U of L would have had 18 seconds, had Syracuse converted. Plus Louisville ran a number of new attacks against the Syracuse zone.)
Back to Luke. As he has done before, he went for it. He was called for two offensive fouls in the last segment of the game, both of which were sketchy whistles at best.
As for Kevin Ware, well, his glossy numbers (8 points, 5 boards, a steal and a block) hardly tell his tale.
With the Cards up 5, but still plenty of time for Syracuse to come back — more than half a minute — Ware stole the ball from Brandon Triche, made a FT to push the Cards lead to 54-48, and two more to re-secure a six point advantage at 56-50. Twice early in the second half, Syracuse grabbed the lead, and Ware immediately tallied to retake it.
* * * * *
It was an eerily even game from a statistical standpoint.
Both squads shot 36% from the field. Louisville was 35% from beyond the arc vs. 39%. Rebounds were 36 to 41. FT shooting on both sides was less than stellar, 58% vs. 66%. Both teams had 14 assists. Louisville had that many turnovers, the Orange, 2 more. Four blocks to five. Nine blocks to six.
Which tells me that, like ‘Cuse’s W earlier this season in the Yum!, the visiting team was more steely at crunch time.
Yesterday, that was the University of Louisville Cardinals. The home team was outscored 10-5 in the final 1:39.
* * * * *
The Cards pushed out to a 7 point advantage, 47-40, on Luke trey with 5:36 on the clock.
A Kevin Ware three went down, came out. Syracuse went on an 8-0 run, taking the lead with 2:52 to play.
From that point on, the Cards were,if not spectacular, seriously solid. Hancock’s offensive “fouls” were acts of aggressiveness. Russ had a steal. Russ rebounded his own missed FT. Chane had an offensive board. Ware had that steal. Ware and Smith drained the Cards’ last four FTs, when it mattered, without a miss.
* * * * *
Gorgui Dieng, ho hum, had 11 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals.
Russ Smith has 18 points, 5 assists, a steal and 2 rebounds.
Louisville was alert from the get go. Passing was much more crisp against the long Orange zone than during the first encounter of the season. U of L had a four point halftime lead, despite 1/15 shooting from Siva, Blackshear and Behanan.
* * * * *
I’ve got to chat about my man Wayne Blackshear for a moment.
It appears he’s playing timidly, without confidence. He’s drifting sideways on many of his shots. He hit a three yesterday. Then airballed his next attempt and went MIA.
I’m advised by someone who observed a full practice last week that Rick Pitino was on Blackshear’s case incessantly. While I haven’t enough info to say this is part of the reason for Blackshear’s mediocre play, I’d opine that perhaps some nurturing might be in order.
* * * * *
I agree with The Rick. Peyton Siva’s game was simply a throwaway. His shots weren’t falling. He was bothered by Syracuse’s length. Despite going ofer from the field, he had four assists, a rebound and a steal.
– Seedy K