Which Earl Clark Will Prevail

By Charlie Springer

The great unknown on game days for the University of Louisville is which Earl Clark will show up. He’s up, he’s down. He is at best unpredictable, skirting between sensational and disappointing. This is a major issue because Louisville’s overall success hinges on how Earl Clark performs the rest of the way.31562-237

This doesn’t take away from the immense contributions of Terrence Williams whose unselfish approach to the game is overshadowed only by his physical talent. Louisville needs another super player to go along with T-Will if the team to achieve the lofty aspirations of the fan base.

Louisville can go a long way if the same Earl Clark who was an overpowering force in wins over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame shows up consistently. However, the journey will be brief one if the same Earl Clark from the UConn loss prevails, you know the mistake-prone wimp who struggles in all phases of his offensive game.

As Draft Express observes, “the impression you come away with from scouting Clark heavily depends on which day you catch him on. On some nights he looks incredibly active, playing extremely hard, utilizing his athleticism to its fullest, and making very good decisions. On others, he looks completely asleep, disappearing for long stretches and being very passive.”

“Clark’s biggest problem is that he seems to be suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis. He’s a power forward at the NCAA level who wants to be a guard, particularly in the way he settles for jump-shots from the perimeter. His jumper is way too streaky for that to be effective, but you regardless see him pulling up for 19-foot fade-aways off his back heel on a regular basis. While he definitely shows a great feel for making plays for others, there is no way around the fact that his shot-selection is extremely poor right now, which only exacerbates his limitations offensively.

“Clark’s biggest assets—his athleticism and ball-handling skills, aren’t quite polished enough to help him get regular production for Louisville. He often looks out of control by the time he gets to the basket—making him fairly turnover prone–and really seems to struggle finishing through contact, trying to get too cute flipping the ball in off the glass, instead of just going up strong and powering the ball through the rim. Rarely do you see Clark finish a play with a dunk, and after watching his film extensively, it’s hard not to come away thinking that he lacks a good amount of physical toughness.”

Comparisons has often been made between Clark and Billy Thompson, who like Clark, was one of the highest rated recruits coming out of high school. Thompson was an inconsistent player in college, only occasionally showing why he was so highly regarded. But for three and a half seasons, Thompson was a huge disappointment. Thompson finally decided to apply his immense talents, helping lead the University of Louisville to its second NCAA Championship in 1986.

For anything similar to happen this season, the light has to come on soon for  Earl Clark.

No Doze: Louisville 60, St. John’s 47

Another sleepy Sunday afternoon. Mediocre opponent. Neutral court. Poor shooting. Jerry Smith not starting. Terrence Williams not hitting. Been there.

Back to the big city, home territory for Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, and Will Scott and the hangout for many Rick Pitino contacts. Madison Square Garden, scene of 10 losses in the last 11 visits.

Not pretty, but not déjà vu. Not this trip.

The jovial part of T-Will missing.  Hitting three free throws for his only points but keeping his head up and into the game, knowing he’s the leader this time around, seven rebounds and eight assists. Invaluable.

Jerry Smith, he of the slow feet, hitting 11 of 11 free throws and leading all scorers with 21 points. Not starting, but not riding the bench much either, Pitino recognizing that he is indispensable in this kind of game.

Samardo Samuels unveiling some new moves, collecting nine points before catching an elbow in the mouth, losing two teeth, heading to a New York hospital for oral surgery. Pitino with his New York connections probably getting prompt medical attention for him. No sitting around in Manhattan emergency waiting rooms.

Terrence Jennings checking in, needing to be a force, playing big, pulling down the rebounds Louisville had to have, winding up with seven of them, five on the offensive end. Providing exactly the kind of raw talent and strength Louisville needed in a bruising toughest.eam-wins kind of game.

Andre McGee stepping back, sinking a 15-footer, giving the Cards an eight-point lead, making a three-possession game at the 1:57 mark.

Earl Clark making only two turnovers, progress. Twelve points and eight rebounds. Still, would have been a good day in front of family and friends to put the team on his shoulders. Maybe next time, has to happen soon, running out of regular season.

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The Good, Bad & Ugly

Statistics never tell the whole story but it is enlightening to see the rankings in some strategic categories with nine regular season games remaining for the University of Louisville basketball team:

Turnovers:

Good:  Jerry Smith, 21 
Bad:  Terrence Williams 51, Samardo Samuels 50 
Ugly:  Earl Clark, 63

Fouls:

Good:  Preston Knowles, 36good-bad-ugly
Bad:  Jerry Smith, 46
Ugly:  Samardo Samuels, 70

Rebounding:

Good:  Terrence Williams, 191
Bad:  Samardo Samuels, 114
Ugly: Edgar Sosa, 31

Free Throw Shooting:

Good:  Samardo Samuels, 73.1%
Bad:  Terrence Wiliams, 60.3%
Ugly:  Terrence Jennings, 37%

3-Point Shooting:

Good: Preston Knowles, 41%, Jerry Smith, 40.3%, Terrence Williams, 35.8%
Bad:  Earl Clark, 27.5%, Edgar Sosa, 27.3%
Ugly:  Jared Swopshire and Reginald Delk, 25%

Assists:

Good:  Terrence Williams, 94
Bad:  Edgar Sosa, 55
Ugly: Samardo Samuels, 19

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Remember When

Unfortunately, some Card Game visitors may not be able to view the video classics of Rick Pitino wearing his white suit, making his “not walking through the door” statement in Boston, and the old Budget Rental Car commercials. It is highly recommended that you use the Firefox browser or the most recent version of Internet Explorer (7.0), not only for Card Game but for greatly improved satisfaction in Internet browsing.

Lights Out: UConn 68, Louisville 51

If no one wipes that smile off Hareem Thabeet’s face, UConn will be foisting another NCAA banner in Hartford.

What’s bothersome is that Thabeet never works up a sweat. Just stands beneath the basket, blocking a few shots, making a few tip-ins, intimidating a few smaller inexperienced players. He is definitely a good free throw shooter, thanks to all the opportunities.

When one is 7-foot-3, one doesn’t have to be a good basketball player. Just don’t do anything stupid, which he doesn’t do, probably because the Tanzanian native is still fairly new to the game, not learning bad habits, but absorbing the coaching.

If Thabeet ever does become a good player, UConn could challenge a few of Johnny Wooden’s old UCLA teams.

— UConn coach Jim Calhoun says Rick Pitino made a mistake by pressuring his guards. Calhoun is dead wrong: pressure defense is Louisville’s game, the reason the Cards won nine consecutive games and are ranked among the top 10. Take away the pressure defense and Louisville is an average team.

One noticeable difference in Pitino’s approach was that Preston Knowles and Andre McGee were rarely on the floor at the same time. If there was a mistake, it may have been in not using the defensive combination that greatly exceeded expectations during the win streak. Put the microwave guards in at the same time, the pressure is multiplied by 10.

— Terrence Williams feeling it, obviously on his way to a special game before collecting two early fouls. His teammates, however, were apparently still thawing out from the weather emergency, their shooting still in the deep freeze.

— Is anyone else pleasantly surprised every time Earl Clark hits anything but a layup or dunk? He’s a physical specimen for sure, but two years of not taking full advantage of all the learning opportunities catches up with him at the most inopportune times. Those early morning solo sessions in the practice center need to become more intense. Two of 16 field goal attempts. Not good.