Williams goes down, Louisville basketball goes south

One knew immediately the University of Louisville basketball team was in trouble when Malik Williams rolled his ankle two minutes and 29 seconds into the game. He realized it as well, hopping around to avoid the pain, heading directly to the locker room.

Leadership lacking when injuries again sideline Malik Williams (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Williams, a UofL captain, is the closest thing to a genuine floor leader this team has. He leads by example, finally playing up to his potential in recent games, and his teammates respect and listen to him.

Tears running down his face as he returns to the bench. Uh oh.

Immediate outlook terrible — for him or his team in a road game against Florida State.  A game helping to decide the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular season. Would UofL win a conference title only five years after joining the ACC?

No. No way. Florida State would outscore Louisville 46 to 12 to close out the game, rolling to an 82-67 romp before 11,500 screaming partisans at Tallahassee. The Cardinals never had a chance in that that second half for numerous reasons:

    • No post presence, not with Williams stuck on the bench, and Steven Enoch, recovering from an ankle injury himself, unable to contribute offensively or to stop anyone defensively.
    • Shell shock again for Jordan Nwora. The all too familiar look on his face when things have gone sour for him. Unable to make a basket, dribble the ball, or make a decent pass when adversity strikes.
    • Florida State getting automatic fouls on UofL every time the Seminoles attack the basket. Apparently irrelevant to the officials who is initiating the contact. 
    • David Johnson in early foul trouble again. Unable to hit free throws, complete passes. Turning the ball over six times.
    • Ryan McMahon going cold after hitting three 3-pointers in the first half. Unable to find or create space for himself.
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    • Lamar “Fresh” Kimble dribbling. So much dribbling. Running circles around Florida State, all to no avail. Overlooking wide open teammates at times.
  • All of these deficiencies getting worse, intensifying the longer Williams is confined to the bench. The Cardinals had lost their leader. Just a matter of time before Florida State catches up with them and delivers the crushing blows.

Any resemblance between this UofL team and last is coincidental

Malik Cunningham wasn’t about to quit after falling behind 21-0, scoring 24 straight points to give his a team a temporary lead.

For a while the University of Louisville football team was getting pushed around,  getting run over. Kinda like its predecessor from a year ago, falling behind early, giving up a big lead. But enough of that.

Any resemblance between this team and that one is purely an illusion. You know, like night and day. There was no quit in the Cardinals on Saturday. Could have, should have, and seemed to be on the verge of winning early in the fourth quarter.

Nine minutes, 39 seconds in the game, UofL up 24-21 over Florida State, an ACC win within its grasp. Unbelievable, after UofL falling 21 points  behind the Seminoles in the first 15 minutes.

Still in the game with just over two minutes to go even though FSU had taken a four-point lead after intercepting a Malik Cunningham pass. The Cardinals had stopped the Seminoles on the one-yard line.

Ninety-nine yards to go for the first conference win since 2017. Behind by four points, within reach. Hope emerging after despair. The beginning of hope?

Wasn’t going to happen. Florida State would luck out, get a second chance after a third missed field goal by Ri Aguayo. Whoops, well forget that. UofL roughing the kicker, still another costly penalty at precisely the wrong time. FSU running back Cam Akers would not be denied again. Scoring his third touchdown of the day, sealing a 35-24 Louisville loss.

Cunningham keeps getting better, but he was unable to overcome four costly penalties, including a block in the back that negated a Rodjay Burns touchdown on a punt return. Two false starts ended promising UofL drives. The roughing-the-kicker was the finishing blow.

Cunningham finished 16 of 27 for 286 yards, with the two touchdowns and interception. Dez Fitzpatrick led UofL receivers with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Javian Hawkins andHassan Hall combined for 109 yards.

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Cunningham had to be carried off the field on a cart after getting injured on the final play of the game. UofL stats guru Kelly Dickey reported that Cunningham’s father said it was a sprain, indicating his son would be ready for Boston College in two weeks.

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.

Quentin Snider keeps Louisville close, but finish is familiar

Quinten Snider scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, giving UofL a chance to win (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Quentin Snider heating up, his shots going in. The guy with the hot hand, the one one wants to make that last shot. Something for the fans to remember, maybe.

The senior guard making three of the University of Louisville basketball team’s four field goals in the last five minutes. Including two 3-pointers, UofL slashing an eight-point deficit to two points with 17 seconds to go.

Snider with a look on one trip downcourt that said he would not be denied, twisting to the left, around a defender to make one of those three’s from 25 feet. Setting up a dramatic finish, the highlight shot, the leading role. 

As Snider’s fate would have it, however, he would not see the ball on that final trip downcourt. V. J. King would take the shot, see it blocked, and Louisville was done. Losing to Florida State 80-76 in front of a crowd of 18,305 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Ray Spalding will leave no doubt with this shot (Cindy Rice Shelton).

Quentin would score 11 of his 15 points in that second half, giving his team a chance. Showing how it’s done, handing out seven assists for the game, but still looking to be reciprocated. Deng Adel getting scoring honors with 19 points, Ray Spalding with 13, and King with 10. 

Lots of indecisiveness in those closing seconds, mindful of earlier losses. Seemingly obvious choices overlooked. Uncertainty, lack of confidence, lack of awareness and lack of direction, it was all there. The player with the hot hand lost in the confusion.

UofL’s record falls to 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, slipping from second to sixth in league play during the week. A chance to get back on track, with Syracuse visiting Monday at 7 p.m.

Find Snider if it’s a nail biter at the end. Please.

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.