Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on USF Beatdown

Although they left something to be desired in the first half, nobody could ask for much more from the Cards after that. They led USF by only one at halftime and went on to win by 26 - Cards 80 Bulls 54.

- I don't think it was as much Louisville playing poorly as it was USF getting all the bounces and 50/50 plays. The Cards shot 44% from the field and 50 from three. Dominique Jones had fresh legs and was getting his shot off well enough to score 15 first half points. He only scored 4 in the second half and I'm sure fatigue had a lot to do with it. Our games are like prize fights where one guy seems to be throwing all the punches early trying to get the knock-out only to get strategically broke-down and beaten in the latter part of the fight. A team can hit us with good runs, but the Cards can take the blow and slowly break the spirit of the opposition over the course of the game.

- Speaking of runs - I think I've found something about the Cards that might rival the play of their defense. It's their "spurtability". A word made up by Clark Kellogg for a team's tendency to go on runs fits the Cards perfectly. A friend of mine told me the Cards had to be leading the NCAA in 8-0 runs and I have to agree with him. How well the defense is playing being coupled with unselfishness leads to these game-changing runs. Last night the Cards went on a 20-3 run the first 9 minutes of the second half and never looked back. Against PITT they were down 20-7 to start and took the lead before you could say a word. Those are just two examples of many times it has happened all year.

- How would you like to be a guard trying to bring the ball up the floor and see Andre McGee and Preston Knowles in your face the entire attempt? It's like a UPS guy trying to get a package to a doorstep with two rabid pitbulls in his path. Like Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez trying to pickle the killer dog in The Sandlot. Not a very good time and it takes greatness to succeed. They are all over the other team's guards like ugly on a UK fan. The intensity and ferociousness of those two in-particular is very impressive.

- As for the other guards - Sosa played very well scoring 16 points on 4 threes, but he did get out of control and had a few turnovers in the first half (even though the stats say 1). I love the way he is paying right now - very unselfish yet extremely confident. Even his defense has stepped up tremendously over the past few games. Jerry Smith is the consummate team player this year by trading in stats for wins. The thought would be he is having a bad year by looking on paper, but Smith does what we need him to do - keep the defense honest and play courageous, hard-nosed D on the other end. Who would Jerry take shots away from? Why does he even need to look for his shot?

- Mardo went 7-8 from the field for 14 and I think about 5 came on Shaq Diesel-style dunks. My biggest pet peeve with him is protecting the basket on out-of-bounds plays on the baseline. It's nit-picking, but watch closely the next few and you will see it needs improvement. Mardo is now coming into his own not because he has drastically improved, but because the team around him is playing so well that he doesn't get as much attention. Due to that, Samuels has become a lot better passer from the post and is slowly-but-surely making quicker decisions with the basketball.

- OK. I guess I have to mention the T-Will between the legs pass when the Cards were only up by 6. It was definitely awesome, "SportsCenter Top 10 plays" worthy, but if he does that against UCONN or Providence I might crap my pants. I know T-Will knows better than that, but there's a fine line between cocky/confident and stupid/dumb. After I saw Earl Clark finish the pass with an And-1 dunk, I was cool with it. I guess that's the risk you take when T-Will is being T-Will.

- My man George Goode is back in action after missing the last 5 games due to a stress fracture in his foot and the solid play of Terrence Jennings. Coach Pitino said Goode had his best day in practice as a Cardinal onTuesday and added that he is very pleased with the way the three-headed monster of Mardo/TJ/Goode are playing right now. You can never have enough front-court depth and it is fortunate that the team didn't lose a step during Goode's injury.

- Are the Cards going to give ole Coach Huggins a taste of his own medicine this week? Not bourbon and car keys, but defense and toughness. Remember when Huggy Bear's UC teams would come down here, play overly physical and look like a prison ward as opposed to a ball squad? The Cards need to do that to a West Virginia team who know likes to slow the game down and get threes. i don't think the Cards are going to allow that, but it will be fun to see what Huggins has in store.

- Congratulations to Will Scott who was accepted to Oxford University - a very prestigious school in England that takes only 15 students every year. I'm not expecting anyone who is reading something written by me to know anything about the school, but the effort necessary to float both such high grades in school and fulfill obligations to practice and travel with the team is truly incredible. Plus, after going 0 for '09, he hit a three after receiving a standing ovation from both the crowd and his proud teammates. Give 'em hell Will.

- West Virginia coming up on Saturday. Another dreaded hangover game at NOON. At least I don't live in LA or my Friday and Saturday nights would be ruined by these start times. Stay tuned for TC writing about his love affair with the team he has liked for close to 58 years - the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ask him to tell you the story about him, Bradshaw and Swann at the Golden Nugget. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

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