A couple of games may have been just what the University of Louisville men’s basketball team needed after five torturous days of practice, an escape from the embarrassment of losing to Western Kentucky,Â the nonstop Rick Pitino-isms, all the redundancy and repetitions, and the doubting ugly reflections in the mirror.
— Welcome back Jerry Smith. First a jumper, then a tip-in and a long-range three-pointer for the Cards’ first seven points, en route to 16 points. Two fouls but neither of them of the wasteful variety.
— Earl Clark looking like the Earl Clark of last year’s post-season, but better: Eight assists, 14 rebounds (including three on the offensive boards), and 17 points. Did we mention eight assists?
— Samardo Samuels, yes, we saw him playing defense. Thought about it, and decided it was time. Has learned he is going to have to work harder to get open. Collected 17 points, nine of them during his 10 shots from the free throw line. Don’t forget the four rebounds, two of them oEn offense.
— Edgar Sosa looks good when he hits those tricky layup attempts, horrible when he doesn’t. Three assists but two turnovers. Needs to keep working on that ratio.
— Terrence Williams, your teammates proved they can beat Ohio U when you have an off day but beating Big East foes will be more difficult. Hitting only one of seven from the field and one of six from the free throw line. Four assists but six turnovers? Where’s our T-will?
— Andre McGee has had better days, too, but he claimed six defensive rebounds.
— Kyle Kuric is going to be a regular contributor soon.Â He’s the protypical Pitino player.
A 40-point win is always nice but nobody was getting worked up at Freedom Hall with a team that was 0-5 coming into the fray. The margin could easily have been 20 points higher, with Indiana State’s depleted lineup due to academic problems. Some eyebrow raisers as the Cards prepare for a Sunday 4 p.m. date with Ohio University:
— The starting guard situation for U of L remains in flux with freshman Kyle Kuric starting today instead of either Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee or Preston Knowles. Kuric shows great promise but starting over three veterans? With all that experience, both of the guard positions should be set by now.
— Rebounding remains a concern even though the Cards pulled off 45 of them compared to 34 for Indiana State. But Indiana State has been out-rebounded every game. The Sycamores were tied with the Cards with 19 rebounds in the first half even though they were being pummeled on the scoreboard.
— Samardo Samuels managed only three rebounds, his total matched by Terrence Jennings in a reserve role.
— Western Kentucky delivered the blueprint for containing Samuels last week. The big guy, who had been averaging 21 points before the WKU loss, managed 17 points today, nine of them in the second with the Sycamores gasping for their collective breath.
— An uncertain Jarad Swopshire is not into the flow of the college game yet, hesitating, thinking, waiting to get involved. This is not a gentleman’s game; get involved.
While these are admittedly nits for now,Â they could become major concerns.
Francisco Garcia finally returned to the starting lineup for the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday after missing six weeks due to a calf injury. It was a long time for Coach Reggie Theus who has seen his team lacking energy and passing up shots at crucial points.
As the Sacramento Bee reported, it was going to be difficult to tell who would be happier, the former University of Louisville star or the former UofL assistant:
“His competitiveness is something we need desperately,” said Theus, whose team has lost seven of its last eight games. “It’s his attitude. He’s one of the leaders on this team, a verbal, emotional leader.
“He wants the ball down the stretch. He’s a guy who stretches the defense. Last year, he was one of the best on-ball defenders we had.”
Garcia didnâ€™t disappoint, accumulating 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 31 minutes during a 99-95 loss to Utah. As he rounds back into shape, watch for continued improvement.
The Kings currently have a 5-15 won-lost record and are in fifth place in the Pacific Division of the NBAâ€™s Western Conference.
A new attitude has to be permeating University of Louisville basketball practice sessions, now that the worship and adulation has been replaced by realism and disappointment. If the UofL basketball team were the stock market, a depression would have been declared.
The first clues that all was not well should have been picked up when Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa were not introduced as the starting guards. Smith apparently focused on something other than weight and basketball during the summer. Sosa had that familiar look of frustration and an inability to manage a dribble drive.
Based on Sunday’s performance, this team closely resembles last season’s team before David Padgett returned to the lineup. Samardo Samuels is playing, to be sure, but at least one opposing coach has figured out how to stop Padgett’s replacement. Other coaches will be applying the same measures to stop Samuels.
Padgett bequeathed his ability to manage the floor and find open shooters to Terrence Williams but T-will apparently left it on the bus.
Excluding Samuels with 36 minutes in the game, the other additions to the active roster accumulated only 11 minutes of playing time — Reginald Delk had five, Terrence Jennings had three, Jarod Swopshire had two, and George Goode had one.
Coach Rick Pitino’s apology is accepted. This team has to be reshaped and reinvented. The tools are available but he’s got a lot of work to do. David Padgett is not walking through that door.
A mere formality this trip to Nashville to play Western Kentucky. Handling the Hilltoppers not much to get worked up about on a wet and lazy Sunday afternoon. No reason to be too concerned as the Cards miss their first eight field goal attempts. Itâ€™s only Western Kentucky.
With the quote of the South Alabama coach about â€œmay be looking at the next national championsâ€ ringing in their ears all week long, the Cards were looking down the road but they were looking way past WKU.
Always a danger with young players is looking back at what has been accomplished in the past, combining it with lofty expectations, and expecting to win by simply going through the motions. Conveniently forgetting what it took to get to the Elite Eight last season, all the work it took to get there.
Complacency was reflected in the court demeanor of the players — the lack of emotion, the missing sense of urgency, the look-at-me-Iâ€™m-too-cool-to-get-excited feel about playing Western Kentucky attitudes were dominant until the final two minutes when the misplaced arrogance was finally replaced by desperation.
All the inflated confidence about depth, how really deep this team is, was exposed as a myth for the time being. Six of the players being counted on this season have three or less college games behind them. Remains to be seen whether any of them are ready for the big time, based on todayâ€™s result.
Unfortunate that it takes a loss to get the attention of not only the newcomers but the veterans as well. Rick Pitino will undoubtedly have their undivided attention this week.