The Cards fought off a little bit of a scare tonight, beating Northern Kentucky 84-69. It was an improvement from the Georgetown game, however the team still has a lot of growing up to do. I thought Caoch Pitino was going to be dissatisfied with his team's performance, but it was really the total opposite. He was pleased with how the squad handled he pressure and came out on top. The potential is there for something great everything meshes together correctly. The offense will be first to come, as it did tonight. Defense and rebounding should come together sooner than later.
Samardo Samuels led the Cards with 29 points in 30 minutes on 10-11 shooting. He's a monster, no doubt. Be that as it may, he hasn't been very active on the glass grabbing only 3 boards the whole game, all being on the offensive end on put-backs. I know he's not always telling us the God's honest truth at press conferences, but Coach said..
"You look at it on paper tonight and think [Samardo] had a great game, he played a terrible game...he had 15 points scored on him because he can't guard the perimeter"
Samuels is the best recruit of the Pitino era and already an unstoppable force on offense. For the Cards to succeed, the big frosh needs to learn how to box-out. With his NBA physique and wing span, Samuels should be a sensational rebounder, however his lack of fundamentals on the boards softens his potential. The defense will come. The rebounding can be learned. The scary thing is, I think we have only scratched the surface of his ability.
St. Louis transfer Dustin Maguire from Taylor County might have outperformed Louisville's freshman phenom. He was unconscious like no player since Trevor Ruffin (Hawaii) or Teddy Dupay (EA Sports) has been against the Cards. 9-12 from 3-point range, 33 points, 32 minutes. Maguire even banked in a bomb as the shot clock expired during a run that gave NKU a 4-point 2nd half lead. His outburst might turn out to have been a valuable lesson to the Cards. Now they have experience in dealing with someone that just can't miss. Coach Pitino was proud of how they persevered through the onslaught, kept their cool, and ran the offense. Great tune-up for a possible 1st or 2nd round matchup with a team that loves to shoot and shoot well.
The guards began to play well, led by Edgar Sosa and his 18 points 3 assists and only one turnover. He gave us the feast or reward, not famine or risk. Jerry Smith let the game come to him on offense (3-5, 7pts), was back to playing great on-the-ball defense and rebounded well (7). Preston Knowles looked like someone put icy-hot in his pants the way he was getting after it on both ends. I love how no matter the magnitude of the game, Knowles is giving his all. Delk played only 10 minutes as the surprising Will Scott played 21 great minutes, earning the praises of Coach Pitino after the game.
Earl Clark had 8 points and 10 boards. I have yet to see him actually get mad and play with that chip on his shoulder we came to know and love at the end of last year. He is trying to show his perimeter game when he knows his bread-and-butter is inside. His face up and post moves can be unstoppable. He did a great job with the short inside passing game with Samuels, getting his teammate a few open dunks. Once the season wears on and the games become more important, I expect Earl will get that mean-streak back.
Terrance Jennings didn't play because Coach Pitino said "I can't play everybody... Swop only played 10 minutes" He went on to say "If you think Samardo played bad defense, you can't imagine how Jenning's would have played". This sounds fishy and true. We'll wait and see if something comes up in the next couple of weeks with Jennings, who's participation is essential to the success of the team.
All in all, a decent performance that could have been better. I think the team learned some valuable lessons that can be taken and used once regular season play starts. Two weeks off and then Morehead State comes to town. Terrence Williams will be back most likely starting after returning to practice this week. Can't wait to see what kind of wrinkle our senior leader brings to a team that is slowly showing signs of living up to it's potential.
There was a football game today. I need to sleep on what I'm about to write on this team, so expect something tomorrow. Apologize for the cheesey camera phone pics in the live blog, thanks to the C-J for the pics above...peace