Ray Spalding at best as Louisville quells Syracuse

Unfortunately for Syracuse, Ray Spalding came to play Sunday, going home with 18 points and 11 rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

While some may question his lack of desire, coordination and shooting ability, Ray Spalding has never lacked for support from Rick Pitino. The coach shaking up the lineup, inserting Spalding as a starter on Sunday. Yeah, that Ray Spalding.

This coming off a two-point, four-rebound and two-turnover performance in a losing effort against North Carolina just last Wednesday, evoking familiar complaints from second-guessers in local sports mediums.

Never doubt that Pitino is aware of the awkward shots, the questionable ball-handling and all the miscues, not only in games, but day after day in practice. But the University of Louisville basketball coach also senses the potential waiting to be tapped, the coach allowing himself the luxury of waiting for it to emerge.

Breakthrough performances tend to come and go, so Pitino’s patience may have been only partially rewarded on Sunday in an 88-68 win over Syracuse before 22,482 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. 

There he was, knocking the ball away from a Syracuse player on defense, completing a rare alley-oop dunk on a half court pass from Quinten Snider, making a rare jump shot from the top of the key and snatching a rebound — all in the first five minutes, with UofL racing to a 13-6 lead.

Donovan Mitchell obviously having some fun at John Gillan’s expense. He also scored 25 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

All was not perfect. Spalding would miss two free-throw opportunities. But he had already outperformed, making himself a presence to be dealt with from the beginning. Easily the game of his career at UofL, making of eight of nine field goal attempts, grabbing 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

If Pitino was pleased, he wasn’t making a big deal of Spalding’s game. “What we’ve been lacking is consistency from our front line players,” he said. So the coach is not quite ready to say Spalding has turned any corners. And even if he has, that may be approaching what Pitino expects from the 6-foot-10 sophomore.

Deng Adel loves those running starts (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

— Donovan Mitchell is hitting his stride, leading all scorers with 25 points, including six 3-pointers. He would be credited with four assists and two steals as well.

— Quentin Snider making five of nine field goal attempts for 12 points while making six assists. And get this, no turnovers in 34 minutes of action.

— Deng Adel loving those going-the-distance drives to the basket, so much that we’re likely to see many of them before the end of the season. Notches 17 points.

— Anas Mahmoud (should we say it?) may be back, making four of five shots for 8 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Makes it look easy at times despite his scrawny frame.

— Tony Hicks did play. I missed it, too, but the stat sheets indicate he was in the game for one minute.

— David Levitch back for about eight minutes, apparently working his way of Pitino’s dog house for the last two or three games.

The win improves UofL’s record to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, good for second place with a showdown coming against Notre Dame at home next Sunday.  

But first one of those dreaded late night ACC road games, this one against Wake Forest at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Durr, Hines-Allen provide one-two punch for Louisville over Virginia

UofL’s Sydney Zambrotta appears to be the object of a haymaker by Virginia’s Aliyah Huland El. No foul was called, however. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).The big question going into the basketball game between the University of Louisville and Virginia was how UofL would fare without Mariya Moore, the latest Cardinal to sit by virtue of a coach’s decision.

Mariya had scored 23 points in a heated 86-81 overtime win over the Cavaliers in early January. Seemed indispensable at the time.

Not to worry, some other Cardinals brought their A games on Thursday. Namely Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen who led all scorers with 24 and 21 points, respectively.

Louisville would put up its 24th win against only six losses before a crowd of 7,981 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Freshman Jazzmine Jones was the beneficiary of the extra playing time, contributing seven points, two assists and a couple of steals in 29 minutes. Oops, she also committed seven turnovers, more work to be done.

Sidney Zambrotta always stirs up the crowd. She was two for four from behind the 3-point line in 11 minutes for her six points, following up a three-for-three 3-point shots on Sunday.

One more game remaining, the Cardinals traveling to Wake Forest on Sunday. They are tied for fourth with 11-4 marks in the conference with North Carolina State, which beat North Carolina 80-60.

Double-bye for the ACC Tournament is a long shot. State owns the tie-breaker, having defeated UofL a week ago.

Senior Night and time to say goodbye to Courtnee Walton, Taylor Johnson and Briahanna Jackson. Jackson still suffering from back spasms and missed the game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
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Tepid free throw shooting torments Louisville

Long day for the University of Louisville basketball team. Sitting around in a hotel all day long, waiting for a 9 p.m. tipoff. Not exactly ideal.

Four of 13 free throw attempts? Not a good look for a team needing to rid itself of some nagging imperfections near the end of February. 

Missing the first six free throws, a weakness spreading to other parts of UofL’s game. The free shots bouncing off the back, the side and the front of the rim, a couple of them missing the rim entirely. 

Donovan Mitchell gets off to a slow start and Louisville pays (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Some familiar front line players still unable to find the bottom of a basket staring them in the face.  Unfamiliar territory despite all the practices and individual instruction. Familiar mistakes but not getting away with them against an upper echelon opponent. Little things, but big factors.

Maybe worse for the Cardinals was the fact that North Carolina was getting so many more trips to the foul line, making 21 of 29 of them. Not surprising but more than a little one-sided maybe?

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Brendan McKay sets tone for Louisville baseball in home opener

Never any doubt about where this ball was going for Brendan McKay, a 400-foot-plus grand slam (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Brendan McKay never gets excited, just an even keel type of guy, taking everything in stride, knowing baseball has lots of ups and downs from one day to the next. 

No big deal with the bases loaded in the first inning. But not just another at bat this time. The Louisville slugger sending the first pitch high and deep over the centerfield fence, quickly getting UofL off to a 4-0 start.

Devin Hairston continues his two-season sizzle, going four-for-four at the plate (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The Cardinals would go on to 19-3 win over Eastern Kentucky University before a crowd of 2,154 Wednesday, improving its record to 4-0 on a 75-degree day at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McKay, a junior, would also get one other hit  and a base on balls. After four games, he is batting an even .500 with three home runs and nine runs batted in. Never changing his expression, even when mobbed by his teammates at plate after his latest four-bagger.

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Al Greener brings vast repertoire to Louisville baseball

Al Greener is back at the organ at Jim Patterson Stadium. He began 11 years ago in 2006, the same year Dan McDonnell came on board (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.

With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.

Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

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