When, in a game that just a few moments before had been knotted up after an early second half Cincy surge, Mick Cronin called his fourth timeout with 13:21 still to play, I couldn’t help but think of Dana Kirk, RIP.
Those who aren’t Johnny come latelys as Cardinal fans remember the cantankerous Kirk. He was an assistant to Denny Crum in the early 70s, moving on to a three year stint at Shaka Smart U. In ’76, the coach was hired by Louisville arch-rival Memphis State, in hopes of matching the Cards’ success.
U of L’s battles with the Tigers in those days are legendary. Intensity levels often exceeded 11. Way more often than not, Cool Hand Crum got the best of his former aide. So obsessed was Kirk with beating Louisville, he would call too many timeouts too early. The games were always tight, but Kirk wouldn’t have any timeouts in hand to use at crunch time. Unlike Denny, who always had plenty.
Cincy coach Mick Cronin is also a former Cardinal assistant. (Which, other than his team’s injudicious waste of timeouts last night, is the only character trait he shares with Dana Kirk, who was fired when a plethora of violations were revealed, then convicted of several crimes in federal court for which he served time.)
Cronin called a knee jerk timeout before the very first media break, when he team was down only 8-10.
A few moments later, at the 10:23 mark of the opening stanza, a Bearcat was forced to call a timeout to avoid a five second call. Which ploy was necessary :26 seconds later with 9:57 on the clock. (I’ve always wondered if it wouldn’t be wiser to save timeouts and lose possessions in the first half than vice versa?)
With 3/4s of the tilt to be contested, one which figured to be tight all things considered, Cronin only had two timeouts left.
He was forced to use the second-to-last one, as mentioned above, after U of L jetted from a tie to a six point lead.
Then he felt compelled to empty the bucket with 9:33 left, down by 11 and the Cardinals spending most of the time during Cincy’s possessions inside the Bearcats’ compression shorts.
As Louisville’s pressure started to take its toll, Cronin — like poor poor Dana Kirk — couldn’t conference at will with his charges to make some tweaks.
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Louisville is not going to win any beauty contests this season.
Then again, no points are awarded during the Dance for aesthetics. If Louisville can continue to eek out more points than their stingy, relentless D gives up, there’s a long run in store.
Last night before intermission, the long range firing Bearcats were 6/14 from beyond the arc. They finished 6/21. For those not keeping score at home that’s Ofer the second half. Cincy made only 8 of 26 FG attempts after the break. The 18 they canned for the whole game was three less than the number of turnovers they committed.
(Thanks to Rick Bozich for pointing out this was the 11th time this season a Louisville opponent has made less field goals than turnovers. Which is, frankly, a pretty stunning statistic. Not to mention incredible testament to the Cardinals’ defensive tenacity.)
Meanwhile, this edition of the Cards, not one of the better shooting squads in the school’s storied history, canned 13 of 24 field goal attempts after the break. 54%. Sweet. And Junior Bridgeman and Allen Murphy weren’t even on the court.
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During the first media break of the second half, when Cincy had tied the game at 37, I got a text from my man SmartGuy.
I’m usually the naysayer. Not last night. Nor did I agree.
The stretch proved but a momentary blip on the screen.
What I thought Louisville did really well, obviously the result of good coaching, was hedge the Cincy ballhandlers to the sidelines as the visitors tried to run their dribble drive O. The visitors were held to 35% shooting on the night.
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For the second game in a row, Louisville’s bench was rock solid. Not only did the subs not lose momentum, they gained it.
Luke, SVT, Silent L and the increasingly valuable Kevin Ware were all that and a bag of Hawaiian Kettle Chips.
19 points. 14 rebounds. Serious energy.
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When considering that guard who starts alongside Peyton Siva, all I can do is smile.
And shake my head.
And say this: Russ giveth. Russ taketh away.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, there’s more of the former than the latter.
Gorgui Dieng had another ho hum night. 11 points. 9 boards. A steal and a block.
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If there’s a disturbing number when looking at the stats of the 16 point W, it’s this one.
Chane Behanan had nary a rebound. Zero. Zip. Nil.
But he did have 4 steals.
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Next up, the regular season finale with the Fighting Irish.
Will U of L’s revenge factor overcome what has become an empirically provable historical imperative: OT(s)?
— Seedy K