Louisville eases up again, but survives Florida State surge

One never knows what to expect with this particular University of Louisville basketball team. Nothing assured as long the game clock is running. The opposing team, not about to roll over, knowing there will always be a chance.

Give these UofL players a decent lead, they will let up, get ahead of themselves, look ahead to the next round.  The Cardinals racing to a 23-point lead with eleven and a half minutes in the second half. Florida State not rolling over, aware of Louisville’s recent history, using the adversity as motivation.

The Seminoles would start making every shot, good, bad or indifferent, cutting the deficit to six points in the final minute. But the Cardinals would make five of their last six shots, Quentin Snider would hit both free throw attempts with 15 seconds to go. Louisville would hang on for a 82-74 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.

Snider, playing like time is running out on his collegiate career, playing with authority, trusting his 3-point shot, leading the way. Leading his team with 19 points, including three of seven behind the 3-point line, five rebounds and six assists. Deserving, perhaps earning a chance to play NCAA tournament ball his senior season.

Ray Spalding, missing eight minutes with two fouls in the first half, providing a steady presence beneath the basket. Playing with confidence, wanting the ball, making those little hooks look smoother and easier of late.  One wonders what if he had another season to work on them. 

Deng Adel playing a supporting role  in this game. Laying off the dizzy-whiz stuff, passing the ball, getting eight rebounds and two assists, taking what the defense gives him, winding up with 15 points.

Anas Mahmoud still missing those sure-thing, two-foot shots but blocking five Florida State shots, making six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Not bad but one still has to wonder what he would be doing had added some weight to his frame. 

Dwayne Sutton, making his case for more playing time when it counts, contributing 10 points and, notably, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.

Hang on. Another Louisville-Virginia game this way comes.

Deng Adel back in full force as UofL kayos VA Tech

Deng Adel finds his shooting touch when UofL needs it most, connecting on four 3-pointers and 27 points against Virginia Tech (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Now that was the Deng Adel many fans of University of Louisville basketball remember from last season, the consensus player, the one letting the offense come to him, finding open teammates, taking care of the basketball.

Ryan McMahon’s enthusiasm is contagious, especially when he’s knocking shots in from downtown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The one people feared would be leaving after only two seasons to pursue a professional basketball career, the one responsible for a collective sigh of relief when he chose to return to UofL for his junior year. The same player who disappeared in the first half against arch rival Kentucky this season, the one having problems with so many turnovers.

Deng Adel is apparently back, seemingly recharged and recommitted the past two games, transforming himself, becoming a serious offensive threat inside and outside. Becoming a serious contender on the boards on Saturday, pulling down 11 rebounds. Generously sharing the ball, getting credited with three assists — one, two, three of them.

Adel becoming more comfortable with or buying into Coach David Padgett’s system, embracing the team concept, benefitting himself and his fellow Cardinals. He would connect 10 of 15 field goal attempts, including four of six 3-pointers, to lead all scorers with 27 points.

"It was fun. The best part was just looking at the bench and seeing how hyped the guys were and then just playing together, making sure it's a balanced, team effort."

A new career high for Adel, embracing the leadership role, reaping the rewards in Louisville’s 94-86 win over Virginia Tech in front of a crowd of 16,798 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. Scoring seven consecutive during a critical second-half stretch and making two huge defensive stops.

“It was fun,” he said afterwards. “The best part was just looking at the bench and seeing how hyped the guys were and then just playing together, making sure it’s a balanced, team effort.”

Making his teammates better, Quentin Snider and V. J. King with 19 and 16 points, respectively. Ryan McMahon coming through with two long-distance 3-pointers and 10 points. Adel taking up the slack with Ray Spalding on the bench with foul problems, with Anas Mahmoud having one of those awkward outings.

The Cardinals will take a 13-4 won-lost record and 3-1 conference record to Notre Dame on Tuesday. They will also take a newly-inspired Deng Adel, and a much-improved outlook to a place where they haven’t won a game since 1994.

Proof of life, Louisville shows heart in win over Florida State

Discouraging, demoralizing, terrible start. Proof of life needed.

Florida State jumping out to a 9-0 lead, widening the margin to 17 points,  near the end of the first half. Visions of the University of Louisville basketball program spiraling into oblivion.

But wait. Five minutes into the second half. Some vital signs emerging, the patient stirring, still breathing, coming out of the coma. Deng Adel scoring six straight points to cut the deficit to eight points. Does one dare imagine a comeback with this team?

Never was there a win so unexpected or so welcome for a team needing something good to happen.

A layup by Ray Spalding, down to six. Then back up to eight. Ryan McMahon with a 3-pointer, down to five. Did the switch turn on? Are we seeing things? Are these guys serious? Are they teasing us? Too good to be true, surely an aberration. Are these our guys making a comeback?

Florida State will extend the lead to eight again but the Cardinals are not done. A 3-pointer by Quinten Snider, two free throws by Spalding, and a three by Adel will tie the game up at 55-55. This is really happening.

UofL will finally get its first lead (64-62) on a 3-pointer by Ryan McMahon at the 4:55 mark. He will strike again, with another 3-pointer with 55 second to put UofL up by five. And he will nail the door shut with two free throws at the 1.5 mark to seal a 73-69 win for Louisville.

Never has a University of Louisville needed a win at this point in the season more badly than this one, facing an outlook with which few UofL could come to grips.

Showing some signs of life, emerging from the shadows, clawing their way out of the depths of despair. Never was there a win so unexpected or so welcome for a team needing something good to happen.

No one coming to their rescue, they have to make it happen. And they will. Proof of life, indeed.

Learning curve continues against Seton Hall for David Padgett

Coach David Padgett gets in the ear of Deng Adel (in top photo) during crunch time against Seton Hall. Anas Mahmoud, Malik Williams, V. J. King and Dwayne Sutton (above) reflect the second low in a row (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

This was never going to be easy, thrusting a 32-year-old into the head coach’s role for University of Louisville basketball. No expectations, no aspirations, hurry up, just fill the post vacated by a Hall of Fame coach.

Deng Adel under for a reverse layup for two of his team-leading 20 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

David Padgett had only a couple of days to think about it, never vacillating, taking the job, a shortcut to the big time. The players needed someone, wanted him. A shaky time for the team and the fan base. Much to learn, much to teach, not a lot of time.

Could wind up being the school of hard knocks for everyone concerned, as was evident in UofL’s 79-77 loss to Seton Hall before 19,244 at the KFC Yum! Center. Three starters committing four turnovers apiece, most coming at the worst possible times, and with the trio of guards managing only five assists. 

A return to the days of not so long ago when Louisville struggled to have a presence in the middle. Anas Mahmoud, still a seven-foot lightweight after adding 20 pounds in four years, collecting two fouls before breaking a sweat Unable to collect a rebound, make an assist or score a point in 20 minutes.

Dwayne Sutton collecting nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Ray Spalding, still struggling with his awkwardness, not much of a factor in the paint or on the boards, managing two points and four rebounds, respectively. Needs to bring all that progress he was said to be making in practice on game days.

Deng Adel, looking good in the scoring column, with 20 points while making seven of 12 field goal attempts and six of six free throws. But having a hard time finding open teammates, especially with the game on the line. Possibly not trusting himself or his teammates at times, making questionable decisions, resulting in blown opportunities.

Quentin Snider, playing better at home than he did at Purdue, having one of his better games of the season. Only to have it go sour for him and be remembered for that errant jump shot in the closing seconds. 

Snider would collect a scant two assists and UofL would be credited with only eight of them for the game, indicating there may be too much one-on-one action and too little passing.  Not much looking for teammates or players not moving without the ball. 

V. J. King still not able to stop anybody on the defensive end or find people around under the basket but contributing 14 points.

Newcomers Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton scoring 10 and 8 points, respectively, but with only one assist between them. 

Padgett, meanwhile, giving his players the benefit of any doubts, suggesting they will get better. Not getting in any faces, not embarrassing anyone during timeouts, rarely raising his voice, being respectful with officials, always the gentleman for now.

He’s new, taking a different tact, relating to a new generation of players in a different way than his predecessors. Going to be interesting to see if his well-mannered approach is successful.  Could be he may have to resort to some more less subtle ways of communicating if things don’t start clicking soon.

Padgett will eventually be successful. But there may be some steep learning curves. Definitely no shortcuts.

Deng Adel resists early out, chooses to get better at UofL

Deng Adel won’t be joining Donovan Mitchell in the NBA draft, at least not this year (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

He could have gone. Some around him probably think he should have. Second thoughts may be inevitable. 

But Deng Adel won’t be entering his name in the National Basketball Association draft this season. He will be showcasing his considerable skills with the University of Louisville next season.

Not succumbing to the seduction of some easy money, not taking the bait, not disappearing into obscurity like so many before him. Listening, heeding the advice of knowledgeable people who know he can do much better.

Go back to school, go play for Rick Pitino, go get better and, barring injury, move yourself into position to be a lottery pick, one of the top 14 players to be named, in the 2018 NBA draft.

Good for Deng Adel. Good for the University of Louisville.

Adel averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, starting 30 games as a sophomore. He finished the campaign strong, the leading scorer in the final six games, averaging 16.3 points.

As Adel goes, so will go Louisville basketball during the 2017-18 season. He should be highly motivated, ready to take his game to another level. A decision that could reap enormous benefits for his future livelihood.