Saturday, January 10, 2009

Whew! That was Close

The Cards shot 3-25 from 3-point range today and beat the #17 team in the country. Villanova is a good team who will most definitely be tough to beat in March because of their guard-play and hustle. However, the Cards played an excellent game defensively, holding Nova to only 8 three point attempts all game and went into a hostile environment on the road in the BIG EAST. They overcame the poor outside shooting and came away clutching a victory. I'm sure Pitino isn't pleased with the lack of "killer instinct" the Cards have shown with the lead, but he'll take a W in any size, shape or color on the road.

- The "killer instinct" thing is something that needs to change soon if this team is going to live up to expectations. There's no way we should just impose our will the first 30 minutes, absolutely dominating opponents, and then have to hit a shot in the final 15 seconds in 2 of 3 games to win. We were up 6-10 on UK throughout the game and let them come back in the final minute. South Florida went on a 10-0 run to close out the game Wednesday. Today, the Cards were definitely the best team on the court and showed it by controlling them whole game. Yet they let Nova take their first lead in the final stages of the game. It's partially Pitino and his substitutions and partially the team getting complacent, but this team need to learn soon how to step on the other teams' throat when they have a lead. If they don't, I wouldn't be surprised to see them lose a game they shouldn't very soon. Not so much against UK and USF, but today we were very, very lucky to win.

- The final sequence showed the world why Louisville has earned the nickname "Cardiac Cards". From T-Will's wild shot - to getting beat on the press - to Antonio Pena's free throw problems - to Earl letting the FT board slip out of his hands - to the lob and multiple tip-in attempts. All lead to me about having a friggin coronary. I wouldn't expect less from this team or any other Louisville team. There were a few times the game looked to be slipping away and it was almost like Nova snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by missing the FT's and tips.

- T-Will continued to build towards becoming this year's David Padgett. Any time the Cards were in a rut and failing to execute the offense, T-Will would make something happen. You have to love seeing players improve like T-Will has over the last 4 years. Nearly all of the poor shot selection, wild passes and falling asleep on defense has been removed from his game and it seems something good happens every time he drives to the basket. 12 points, 15 boards and 6 assists in 35 minutes. Despite all the greatness that he brings, T-Will needs to be more consistent with his shot. There were a few opportunities for him to halt a Nova run with an open 3 and he bricked it. As we all know, if those start falling at around a 40% clip the Cards will take it to a new level.

- Like Andy said earlier, Earl Clark is just a mastodon in the paint, but somewhat sporadic around the perimeter. He can hit shots from the outside, but he rarely creates for teammates off the dribble. In the paint, E5 can let his teammates create for him - leaving him one-on-one with what is more than likely an under-sized defender 5-10 feet from the hoop. I have not seen one guy all year that can match up with Earl in both size AND athletic ability inside. That's where Earl pays the bills in college. Next year he can showcase his outside game with the Bucks or Sixers.

- Guard play was suspect at best for the Cards today. The 4 guards (Sosa, McGee, Smith, Knowles) went a combined 5-24 from the field (2-15 from 3) for only 12 points. It wasn't like they weren't getting open looks, they just weren't knocking them down. The pressure of the Nova guards combined with the poor shooting forced the Cards to pound it down low. Sosa looked to be getting back to his old ways a little, so we'll watch out for that. The other 3 just weren't hitting, but made up for it by playing some hard-nosed D on Nova's guards.

- Samardo played a lot better today, but Nova didn't have a guy taller than him to compete inside. 15 points is more like it but the Jamaican is still a work in progress more on defense. He was getting himself open in the post and exhibiting some good post moves. However, he does get his shot blocked far too much for my liking. Hopefully he looks at his stat sheet and gets a little more confident. By the way, Mardo got called for the foul in the picture above.

More to come later on....

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