Derrick In The Present

Now that’ s more like it, Derrick Caracter getting emotional. Clapping his hands. Waving a fist. Clapping his hands. Going strong to the basket, making the difficult shots.

Scoring 17 points, grabbing four rebounds and being called for only two fouls [one of them a phantom foul], helping U of L score an important win over St. John’s. Being named player of the game by both the TV and radio broadcasting crews.

Representing the university well in his radio interview following the game, saying all the right things, knowing he has to continue working hard to get better. Acknowledging that he has not been contributing much lately, pledging to bring it in future games.

Coach Rick Pitino said he told Caracter a couple of days ago that players who play exceptionally hard always look good, that you can’t dwell on what’s happened in the past, have to work hard and get it done in the present.

What that means is enjoy the moment, Derrick. But the St. John’s game is history. Gotta prove yourself all over again Monday night in a challenging road game at UConn. Play exceptionally hard.

On Deck Circle

Seems like a long time ago, sweltering in the 90-degree heat at Jim Patterson Field, hanging on every pitch as the U of L baseball team literally clobbered its way into the NCAA’s College World Series last season. Brought back a lot of memories, going bonkers over the outcome of baseball games.

Current temperatures are currently hovering in the low teens but the Cards are well into preparations for a new season. Opening pitch will delivered on February 22 in a three-game series at home against Cleveland State.

The Cards will host their Leadoff Dinner at the Kentucky Exposition Center on Friday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $50 each, by calling 852-2015.

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Yankees vs. Bulls — Former U of L coach Lelo Prado will lead his South Florida baseball team against the New York Yankees on February 28 at Legends Field in Tampa, according to the College Baseball Blog. Exhibition game, of course.

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Back To Normal? — Jeremy Hazell, who couldn’t miss any of his 30- to 35-foot bombs and wound up with 29 points against U of L, hit three of four threes and managed nine points (thanks Mike) against Providence last night in Seton Hall’s 88-75 win. Anybody looking forward to seeing Hazell in Freedom Hall next season … or maybe the Big East tournament? How about the next three years?

Work In Progress

A lot of good things happened in U of L’s 80-60 win over South Florida, pushing the Cards’ record to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in Big East conference play. Among them:

– Terrence Williams handing out 10 assists in the first half. Has U of L ever had a more unselfish player as physically talented as Williams?

– Earl Clark hitting eight of 12 shots for 18 and eight rebounds. Probably more motivated as a reserve than as a starter.

– Defense holding the Bulls to 40 percent shooting, 22 of 55 shots from the field, 5 of 16 from three-point range. The carnival shooters from Seton Hall relegated to ugly memories.

— Jerry Smith, consistently good, never shot happy even though he’s the team’s best shooter, serious about defense.

But there continue to be some troubling issues:

– Team relaxing, letting up when it gets a good lead, lacking a killer instinct, allowing South Florida to get back to within 14 points in the second half.

– Edgar Sosa forgetting his role as play maker, getting lost in traffic, killing momentum. Everybody loves the guy but if this continues, Edgar is going to keep losing playing time. Rick Pitino may even forget to put Sosa in for a couple of games.

– David Padgett missing layup after layup. Obviously, still recovering.

– Derrick Caracter going backwards these days, rarely contributing in the last two games.

South Florida Mirage

Louisville fans can be forgiven if they relax against South Florida. The Bulls have been down so long it’s hard to remember if they were ever a serious basketball threat. USF is trudging along with 10-9 won-lost record and is mired in a five-game losing streak.

But Cardinal fanatics should know better by now. This team can’t let up against anyone, not at home, not on the road. This South Florida team was very much in the game at Seton Hall last Thursday before finally succumbing by 10 points. Highlights include a win over Florida State 68-67 at Tallahassee and a 23-point spanking of Rutgers at Tampa.

The Bulls are backed into a corner, trying to salvage their season. They view the U of L game as an opportunity to salvage their manhood, ala Seton Hall. USF has a balanced scoring attack, with four players averaging double figures. They are led by 6-foot-9 Kentrell Gransberry with 16.9 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Their rowdy fans have always hated anything U of L, often taunting coaches and players on the bench. This is not a team to be overlooked or pitied.

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Anyone else needing a college football fix? News from the Schnellenger Complex is that the Spring Scrimmage has been set for April 19th. By the way, football signing day is February 6th.

View From The Valley

U of L looked like a team to be reckoned with in the Marquette win. Persistence on defense. Patience on offense. Brimming with confidence, surely headed back to the top 25.

The Cards didn’t play that badly in the loss to Seton Hall, at least not until the final four minutes. From that point on, they suddenly couldn’t pass, shoot or play defense. Ran out of gas, lost their poise, rolled over and died.

Seton Hall, meanwhile, was playing the game of its life, buoyed by the prospect of beating what their coach described as a “legendary program.” The Pirate fans were pumped, on the verge of hysteria, at the prospect of pulling off the big upset. The players and fans were feeding off on each other. Hazell who? Just throw the ball up from anywhere, that’s who. Crazy stuff.

It’s a game U of L players and fans won’t soon forget. A letdown was inevitable after Marquette, even though it didn’t become obvious until the fatal four minute mark. May be fortunate that such a loss comes early in conference competition. Need to get a chip on the shoulder, and keep it there. Can’t take anything for granted when every game against the Cards means so much to every opponent.