Maybe it was the small crowd that showed up. More people show up for high school games than were at Conte Forum. Maybe it was the food in the pregame meal. Maybe it was the weather in Bean Town. Doesn’t matter, the University of Louisville basketball team was flat. Little emotion. No fire. Just weak.
Chris Mack was frustrated. His assistants were perplexed. University of Louisville fans on the post game radio shows asking what everybody is asking, what has happened to this team?
UofL looked like it was just going through the motions in a listless first half. Then the Cardinals rallied to take a lead deep into the second half, only to watch Boston College come back. The last five minutes were an implosion, with Cardinals going down to a 66-59 defeat.
Boston College is a bad team playing out the string just trying to get to the end of the season. Look at all the missed shots, the defensive lapses. Louisville didn’t take advantage. The Eagles were without one of their top players in freshman Wynston Tabbs who averages 13.9 points. The Eagles are 4-9 without him.
Card Nation is slowly coming to accept the fact that this team is toast. This is not the same team that beat Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, led Duke by 23 in the second half and played its next opponent as if it’s life depended on it. Where has that spark, the toughness, the swag gone?
UofL fans was lulled into a false sense of confidence by all the early success. Call it Duke hangover, call it what you want. Louisville has done enough to make the NCAA tournament. But losses in the next two games and an early exit from the ACC tourney and Louisville is quite possibly a bubble team — or an eight or nine seed at best.
“Sickening to watch,” said Mack to the Associated Press following the game. “I mean we’re just not making winning plays. Not making winning plays on either end of the floor. I’m sitting there thinking like we have everything to play for. And you wouldn’t be able to tell that in the last five minutes of the game.”
Rock bottom is where UofL lives right now. Notre Dame (13-15) comes to the Yum Center on Sunday afternoon. Irish coach Mike Bray will have his team ready. Can Chris Mack recharge this Louisville team? The odds aren’t very good.
Where have they gone, those guys who were on fire a month ago?
If this University of Louisville basketball team wants a decent seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, it’s time to get back on track. Now. Not next week, not the ACC Tournament. Now.
Louisville has lost four of its last six games. Any edge the Cardinals had from playing a favorable early conference schedule is gone. Missing is that toughness, grit and determination that helped this team beat Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Card Nation keeps waiting for something positive. After the 23-point melt down against Duke came the teeth gnashing win over Clemson. Against Syracuse, Louisville didn’t look anything like the team that shot its way to a big lead against the Blue Devils. Or even the one that had Florida State on the ropes for nearly 40 minutes before losing in overtime.
Now we need to see if Chris Mack can turn this team around. That old nemesis known as the No. 3 ranked Virginia Cavaliers comes to town Saturday. Coach Tony Bennett’s team has only two losses, both to Duke. Virginia puts fans to sleep, but is a consistent winner. They are not invincible, however. Remember that No.1 seed losing to 16th-seeded Baltimore Maryland-County in the NCAA Tournament last season?
The odds of Louisville having a friendly face in Frankfort will be significantly enhanced if Daniel Cameron is successful. He’s running for the post of Kentucky Attorney General on the Republican ticket in May.
Cameron is a former University of Louisville football player, earning a Bachelor’s degree as a McConnell Scholar in political science and a law degree from the UofL Brandeis School of Law. He was selected by the University to give one of the student commencement speeches at the 2011 graduation ceremony.
He became a Cardinals’ fan after his parents moved to Elizabethtown from Alabama in his youth. “They were the team in our back yard and it was easy to root for them 30 minutes down the road,” said Cameron, who was born in Plano, Texas.
One of his fondest UofL memories was the football team’s appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl. Cameron was a freshman that season, playing at safety and on special teams under Coach Bobby Petrino. “At that time, he was seen as someone with a great offensive mind and a great X’s and O’s coach, somebody who paid a lot of attention to detail,” recalls Cameron. “Winning that game was one of the biggest milestones in UofL football history.”
Cameron would also play under Coach Steve Kragthorpe whom he said “seemed like a great guy but it just didn’t work out for him.”
He said he also benefited greatly from some challenging experiences at UofL’s McConnell Center. “I was able to do both because there were a lot of gracious folks in the football office and the McConnell Center,” he said. “I remember having to miss a football practice because of an academic event, and Coach Petrino told me to tell McConnell to keep the lid on gasoline prices or something to that effect.”
Later, as legal counsel to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in Washington, Cameron would accompany McConnell on some trips to Louisville for several football games. “He rarely misses a football game, he’s an avid follower and an avid attender,” he said. “The only reason he misses is if there’s something really important going on in Congress.”
Before going to Washington for more than two years, Cameron was an attorney with the firm of Stites & Harbison. He’s now with Frost, Brown & Todd, one of the most prestigious law firms in the region.
Cameron says he is running for the office of Attorney General “because it is the best platform from which to confront the public safety challenge of our lifetime: the drug epidemic,” he said. “I’ve seen too many families torn apart by drug abuse. The Attorney General should be the leading voice in confronting this challenge.”
Cameron believes the office has been overly politicized by Andy Beshear, the current occupant who has often clashed with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, suing him multiple times for his use of executive authority.
One of the Beshear’s lawsuits led to a temporary reversal of Bevin’s appointments to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. The turmoil that followed the Beshear’s challenge is credited by some as a major factor in UofL being placed on academic probation for a year.
“The last four years Andy has spent a lot of time sort of prioritizing being the opposition to the Governor,” he said. “Some of the things he has involved himself have been driven specific policy view. He has used his office in many ways to be the chief legislative officer and the chief policy officer as opposed to being the chief law enforcement officer.
“I want to return the Attorney General’s Office to being the chief law enforcement office,” he continued. “The No. 1 issue in terms of public safety challenge is the drug epidemic. The Attorney General needs to be the driving force on that issue. The number of drug overdoses in Kentucky has been devastating. The AG needs to use the bully pulpit to getting all of the law enforcement agencies working on the same page .”
Cameron believes resolving the drug crisis in Kentucky will have to include contributions from all segments of society, including the universities and other agencies. He is pleased with with the new leadership under Neeli Bendapudi at the University of Louisville, and said he looks forward to working with education leaders as well on drug issues.
“We’re in it to win, and we’re prepared to tackle the immense challenges that come with the plague that is disrupting so many lives,” he said.
This thing with the University of Louisville basketball team giving away leads late in the game is taking a mental and physical toll on everyone, the coaches, players, and the fans. At the worst possible time, with March rapidly approaching.
The Cardinals almost folding again over the weekend. The turnover problem rearing its ugly self when it matters most, at crunch time when teams are pressing, locked in defensively. UofL loses focus and confidence, seemingly hoping to be rescued by the clock.
When Louisville inbounds the ball, it’s usually from the corner, and Christen Cunningham winds up getting trapped. He is only 6-foot-2 has trouble seeing over bigger players waving their arms. For starters, they may want to get it to the middle for better spacing.
One can’t blame Cunningham for all the drama, however. Had it not been for his layups and the big 3-pointer on Saturday, the Cards would be saddled with a three-game losing streak.
Teams are forced to pay close attention to Jordan Nwora. The sophomore averages over 17 points and close to eight rebounds. He’s arguably the team’s best player but his ball handling is random at best. He leads the team in turnovers with 63, including six of them against Clemson.
Dwayne Sutton’s game seems to have fallen off a bit, scoring four points in Saturday’s win. He has played solid defense but his ball handling against the press also leaves much to be desired.
Ryan McMahon is dead on behind the 3-point line when he gets the ball on the fly, but that becomes a tough proposition in the closing minutes.
Inside players Malik Williams and Steven Enoch have been up and down as well. They both come up short offensively and defensively against opponents their size or larger.
This group of players has shown signs of potential greatness at times, beating quality opponents like Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, and building a 23-point lead over top-ranked Duke in the second half. But the recent downturn in their fortunes may be taking a major toll on their collective psyche at a time when they need to be getting better.
The season only gets tougher from this point. Not the time to be going backwards.
Any questions about whether the Miami women’s basketball team’s recent win over Notre Dame was a fluke were answered on Sunday. Unfortunately for 12,193 University of Louisville fans at the KFC Yum! Center, the Hurricanes are very much for real.
Final score: Miami 79, Louisville 73.
Just ask Sam Fuehring who had the unenviable task of guarding Miami’s Emese Hof under the basket. Fuehring would quickly collect two fouls in the first quarter and play only six minutes in the first half.
Hof, a 6-foot-4 senior from the Netherlands, is the prototype center in women’s basketball, probably 180 pounds, powerful and quick. She was making it look too easy, connecting on 10 of 16 field goal attempts, most of them layups.
Hof would wind up with a game high 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Fuehring, meanwhile, struggling against the hefty Hof, making only three of 10 shots for only six points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.
Wearing a broad smile during that last minute, knowing her team had Louisville’s number this day. Hurricane Sports describing Miami’s win over second-ranked UofL as “the biggest regular season win in program history.”
Equally impressive in her own right was Miami point guard Laura Cornelius, a 5-foot-8 point guard, also from the Netherlands. She would wind up with 16 points and five assists.
And there goes that No. 2 rating, putting UofL in a three-way tie for first place (with Miami and Notre Dame) in the ACC, and forcing a reassessment of the top four seeds in the NCAA tournament. New ballgame for the UofL women.
* * *
Asia Durr led UofL in scoring but she would admit it was not one of her better games. Par for the course against Miami.
In fact, the first bullet point on the Miami media fact sheet was that the Hurricanes had held Durr to a mere seven points in last year’s 10-point home loss to Louisville. Durr made only one field goal, with the rest of her points coming from the free throw line.
Asia was more productive on Sunday, scoring 16 points. However, she made only one of 10 three-point attempts, and five of 17 overall.
In four meetings against Durr over the past four seasons, Miami has held her to 42 points (10.5 per game) on 13-of-43 shooting (30.2 percent), including a 2-of-18 (11.1 percent) mark from 3-point range.