Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thoughts on UNLV Loss

Like I said on Wednesday, as if you didn't need more reason to take a couple extra drinks of Woodford on New Year's, the Cards gave you one. I don't know whether they were looking past UNLV to the Mildcats (why?) or just flat out laid an egg, but the Cards fell to a team that was missing their best player and scored only 56 points. At Freedom Hall no less. Rebels 56 Cards 55. Bartender!

The loss to UNLV was an absolute atrocious display of basketball, especially in the first half. The Cards looked like they weren't playing hard and didn't get the ball in the hoop on offense until Knowles hit a 3 with 7:30 to go in the first. With the talent and coach we have that is utterly ridiculous and totally uncalled for. Like Jay Bilas said on the ESPN telecast, the Cards still have a team that can/will make noise in March. However, playing like they did on Wednesday night will get you nowhere fast. Here are 10 things I noticed, most being on the negative side of things - deservingly so...

  1. Our biggest issue in all 3 losses was not being able to score, especially around the basket. T-Will has the ability to get by anyone on the dribble, but it does no good if the shot doesn't fall. There were multiple times where T-Will could have just dunked or attempted to dunk and not fling up some cute floater or finger-roll. It would get the crowd excited and either 2 points or a trip to the line. I don't know if he's concerned about the knee, but Williams needs to posterize some sorry center like we all know he can. Pitino said after the game, "We didn't have it offensively tonight and in the three games we've lost now, we've really struggled at the offensive end shooting the basketball. That's an obvious weakness of ours. We just have to create as much motion as possible and not just rely on that."
  2. I'm beginning to think Pitino put too much weight on Samardo's shoulders too early. Eventually he could become that leader and focal point, but right now he needs to develop that killer mentality that all the greats have and he lacks. Like Pitino said, he has to learn to play above the rim and pass effectively out of double teams. Also, his hops are very troublesome to me because his shot gets blocked what seems to be 3-4 times a game. Mardo lacks the essential explosion a big man needs to fight through the trees inside. His shot will continue to get blocked if he continues to play that way. The way he was forced to guard someone smaller than him on the outside hurt the team late in the game as well.
  3. Sosa didn't waste much time before committing his first turnover. He entered the game at 18:02 in the first half and threw it to no one in particular at exactly 18:00. He finished the game playing 13 minutes, scoring 2 points on a called goaltending, coughing the ball up 4 times and dropping zero dimes. Seems like the perfect way to prove your doubters wrong and earn more playing time. I guarantee if given the same amount of playing time, Kyle Kuric would be far more impressive and productive while making his teammates better.
  4. The first half was the worst I've seen a Pitino coached team play in a while. Like I said before, the ball didn't go through the bucket via a made FG until the 7:30 mark and single digits were a distinct possibility. The team shot 6-26 (23%). T-Will played all 20 minutes and scored 1 point on 0-6 shooting. E5 led in scoring with a whopping 6 and we almost had as many rebounds (20) as points (21). Just an awful display that I would be fine not ever hearing or seeing again in my life. For a team to score 56 points and win on the road is just sickening.
  5. Earl needs to get the ball more with his back to the basket. He has a beautiful turn around jumper and a decent drop step that needs to be taken advantage of. Earl gets himself in trouble with the ball on the wing and is much more collected under the hoop where he belongs. Clark shouldn't be settling for jumpers outside of 12-15 feet. He can work on that outside game next year in the league.
  6. After taking only 7 contested shots against UAB, the Cards took well over 20 (I quit counting) against UNLV. The offense wasn't helping create open looks and players were unable to get an open shot off the dribble. This is completely attributed to passing or lack there of. Most grade schoolers know that if you keep the ball moving good things will happen but the Cards seem to dribble themselves into trouble and only make 2 or 3 passes in an average possession. Less dribbling, more passing will lead to greater success.
  7. I'm beginning to agree with TC in thinking that the Knowles/McGee back court is the one that will lead to the most success. McGee's hot hand is coming back and Knowles was a perfect 3-3 from long range against UNLV. Both play some outstanding, ball-hawk defense, but lack the size to hang with bigger guards. Jerry Smith isn't playing bad, I just think he needs to be more assertive on offense by looking to shoot more and not get beat off the dribble so much on D. We haven't seen the intense, game-changing Jerry yet this season.
  8. In the few minutes he gets, George Goode has really impressed me with the way he plays defense and rebounds. He had 2 blocks and a board in only 3 minutes. In the practices I've been to this year, he showed off a deadly 15 foot baseline jumper. I'd love to see how the Cards played if Goode was given 10-15 instead of 0-5 minutes a game. I guarantee not much would happen in the paint aka "Goode's Hood". It is hard to find him minutes with Clark and T-Will averaging close to 40 minutes a game, but it's worth a shot just for the interior defense.
  9. It looked like Coach P didn't go shake Lon Kruger's hand after the game. The ESPN cameras showed a coatless Pitino in disgust about the non-foul call on the final play. He then turned around and walked up the tunnel by himself while the players were giving "good games". Not trying to make an issue out of it, but the Don looked rather infuriated and I would loved to have been a fly on the locker room wall. The amount of expletives had to have been mind-boggling.
  10. I thought Rene Rougeau was "The Mountie" or one-half of the French Canadian tag team brothers from late 80's/early 90's WWF. Turns out he's a former walk-on who somehow slipped through the cracks and has become a possible all-conference player for the Rebels. He scored 17 points on 8-9 shooting and played some incredible defense on Clark and T-Will. You love to hear about guys like that, just not when there in the process of torching your team.

T-minus 2 days until the "Dream Game". Here's to hoping the Cards use this loss as fuel and don't let it send them into a downward spiral going into Big East play. Regardless of the outcome, the Cards will likely be the first preseason top 5 team to drop completely out of the polls. This might be the type of team that needs to fall on it's back to become humbled. This is no time for soul searching though, as the Kentucky game has now been viewed as a must win, not to salvage the season, but the team's sanity. A second consecutive loss would be close to devastating before the start of conference play.

Oh wait. We're playing the Mildcats. The Big Blue Boo Hoo. We'll be fine.

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