Between Tearing Packages Open

Between family and friends’ Christmas gatherings today, there was a basketball game. It was one of those typical pre-conference early season games where things should have been coming together but didn’t come close. University of Louisville basketball fans have been there before and they will be back there again, hopefully not this season. No danger of peaking too early.

What will be remembered about this day is all the fun with the kids, grandchildren and friends, all the hugs, the laughter and good times. The holiday season is in high gear.

Finding A Leader: Louisville 77, Ole Miss 68

A former coach turned broadcaster, whose TV career didn’t last long, once said when you get a team down you have to step on their collective throat and crush the life out of them. That’s what the University of Louisville basketball team didn’t do when it had Mississippi gasping for breath in the first half.

The lack of a killer instinct reared itself again, threatening to turn what should have been an easy win into another loss which would have further embarrassed the Big East against a mediocre SEC team.

The reason it didn’t happen was Earl Clark, and some timely three-point baskets from Edgar Sosa and Terrence Williams.

Fans saw what the pro scouts have been anticipating but had never actually seen – Clark assuming control of a game for almost 10 minutes in the first half, making moves he had never shown, hitting shots he had been missing, rebounding, blocking. He what? 25 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks.

He showed why he changed his mind about going to the NBA last summer, wanting to return to Louisville and his teammates. He’s taking the college game more seriously this time around, becoming more of a force than a role player, putting the load on his shoulders if that what it takes to win.

A new outlook, a whole new weapon for the Cards, against Mississippi anyway. Clark just may have assumed the leadership role vacated by David Padgett. Now that he has shown he can do it, it will be expected of him. And he should want it, badly.

*    *   *

Samardo Samuels looked like a freshman for a second time this season, struggling mightily for anything he could get around the basket. Had it too easy in those early games against the no-name teams. Puts all the things the coaches have been preaching to him in perspective. Keep your eyes on the basket, go strong to the goal. Finish.

Getting It Started

The stadium stalker may have discovered clear evidence that things are going to start happening soon at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The backhoe’s big brothers will be along shortly to handle the heavy lifting. The observer has heard estimates of upward expansion of between 53,000 and 57,000 for the first phase. Nobody seems to know for sure, possibly depending on how low steel and oil prices go — the lower the better. The best news of all may be that interest rates are at historic lows. Hey, Tom, if the economy keeps dumping, maybe only one phase would be needed to get it to 63,000 seats.

Cards, We Barely Know Ye

Not at the point of looking for answers, at least not yet.
Crunch time has arrived in Rick Pitino's most recent chapter.

The time has finally arrived.

The exhibition games, the embarrassing early-season loss, the coming back down to earth for inflated players and fans, the uncomfortably close games and run-away wins against no-chance schools.

Done.

Time for testing, time for growth, time to take the real measure of this year’s University of Louisville basketball team. The results during the early going really haven’t revealed much about how the Cards will perform. What we do know is that this is a team missing the leadership skills of David Padgett, and still waiting to see who will fill the void.

Rick Pitino says he likes this team but it’s obvious he has been using the early season to find the best player combinations. The question is whether he has found a few solutions or whether questions still outnumber answers.

The Cards have gotten off to slow starts in most games, even against lesser talented teams, largely relying on superior depth to wilt the opposition. No evidence whatsoever of a team that will dominate even average teams and little indication of a killer instinct.

At least, not yet.

Time to see how quickly a group of freshmen with vast potential will mature against real competition. Thus far, the Cards have played down to the level of the competition, or even below the level in the loss to Western Kentucky.

The real season begins against Mississippi in the Big East-SEC basketball challenge at Cincinnati. Conference pride at stake, time to salvage some of it after the the Big East lost the first two games in the challenge. Not good to lose to SEC schools; they will never let you forget.

Next in quick succession come Minnesota, UAB, Las Vegas, and Kentucky.

The time has arrived.

Shaking Off The Nods, 94-75

Who wakes up first, the fans or the players? Had to be the players today because the crowd wasn’t feeding anyone but itself. Excuse me, but there is a basketball game going on.

The lighting effects, the blasting music, the shrill announcing, that stuff is old hat, creating an artificial atmosphere. Rob Hickerson, the aging cheerleader, was doing his thing in the southeast corner but still heads were nodding. The younger crowd, the brashers always criticizing the older crowd, still recovering from the holiday cheer, one ventures.

The slumber continued until Preston Knowles made good on a three-pointer at the 10 minute mark in the second half to put the University of Louisville ahead to stay at 58-56.

Nothing wakes up a Freedom Hall crowd faster than when the Cards start taking an opponent seriously. The fans are sure to follow.

— UofL would be unbeatable with Preston Knowles playing 30 minutes a game. He plays defense with a ferocity not seen around here since the Roger Burkman days. The bonus with Knowles is that he’s also a shooter, claiming 21 points today.

— Terrence Williams not quite himself yet, still recovering from the knee operation, possibly. And what’s the arm-length bandaging of his left arm? He’s still among the most physically talented players on any floor but he is still working on feeling totally healed maybe.

— Earl Clark just can’t get excited about playing teams without name recognition. Needs to working on his intensity now to be able to manage it in Big East competition.

— Have to keep congratulating Edgar Sosa when he makes good passes like the one to Knowles but we have to look the other way as he mows through people going down the lane.

— Nice to see Samardo Samuels being seen hauling in rebounds, five on the offensive boards (!) and six on the defensive end. Fortunately, he’s a great free throw shooter (9 of 10 today).

— Jarod Swopshire, Terrence Jennings and Reginald Delk need to quit acting like typical freshmen. Talent will get you somewhere.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]