A New Samardo Samuels Leads Louisville

Something magical happened with Samardo Samuels a few games back. A flash of light. An awakening. A whole new outlook. Different approach to the game.

Going from being clumsy and awkward, unable to catch a pass, letting other bigger guys have their way with him, and unable to make a contested shot to …

To a Samardo Samuels, who is confident, self-assured, aggressive and driven, not backing down to anyone anymore, knowing how to score, determined to make things happen. No longer out there just marking time or taking up space, he has found purpose and desire.

The University of Louisville defeated Notre Dame 91-89 in two overtimes riding on the shoulders of Samardo Samuels. Bruised and battered, he was just too much for FOUR defenders fouling out in their efforts to slow him down.

And guess who blocked the final Notre Dame shot?

An epic performance by Samardo Samuels, with a career high 36 points, including 16 or 19 free throw attempts, refusing to wilt during his 46 minutes of playing time. He is a changed man and every player on this team knows he’s the man.

Yes, he has absorbed an infinitesimal number of Rick Pitino motivational speeches. Nodding yes, yes, yes, uh huh, okay.

But it wasn’t until Samardo Samuels looked deep within himself that a turnaround began a few weeks ago, finding a big heart and an abundance of fortitude and determination, resulting in a new and overwhelming desire to win. The outlook for University of Louisville basketball changed with him.

Notre Dame-Louisville Box Score

Like Louisville Can Still Get Ticket Punched

Here goes an exercise in futility.

For the University of Louisville basketball team to get to the NCAA tournament, some unlikely things will  have to occur, including some unbelievable breaks over the next three weeks or so. Meanwhile, here’s a few suggestions:

  • Samardo Samuels — Quit being nice. Shock teammates, get in their faces, demand intensity and toughness. Transform that permanent look of disappointment into a scowl. That seems to be what gets attention these days.
  • Terrence Jennings — Wise up, get serious in practice, learn the offense, know what a rebound is, guard someone, admit it’s not cool looking lost. Otherwise, quit wasting the scholarship
  • Edgar Sosa — Pick up where he left off before the St. John’s loss, remembering why he wasn’t in the last five minutes of that embarrassment — not finding his teammates, not making clean passes, not protecting the ball.
  • Jerry Smith — Return to being a long-range shooter, convince himself he’s not in a permanent slump. Time is short, playing days almost over.
  • Jared Swopshire — Show some kind of emotion — happy, sad, even bored will do, proving he’s not a robot. Looks mechanical whether he’s shooting a free throw, rolling around in a scuffle or diving for a loose ball.
  • Preston Knowles — Take care of the ball, go back to being fearless.
  • Peyton Siva — Take more of those NBA-range three-point shots, being careful with the passes.
  • Rick Pitino — Figure out which of the seven or eight players are most effective. Get past the experimentation and mind-playing games. Constantly changing the formula not good science or good for team chemistry.

Heady Stuff, A Win Over UConn

Just when one has filed a University of Louisville basketball player in the marginal to wasted category, Rick Pitino does his thing, getting inside the player’s head, pointing out the obvious, showing him ways to get better, making him a contributor.

Yes, sometimes Pitino must go back to the well many times, taking a while for a player to grasp the obvious. He knows the players better than they do, so he often has to introduce and educate them about themselves.

  • Who would have believed three weeks ago that Samardo Samuels would ever get the post-up move down so well, consistently connecting on hook shots or becoming a reliable rebounder. And how about the recent emotion, the smiles, even laughter from the shy one, and the swagger. Samuels is all in, believing in himself.
  • Too soon to know whether Jerry Smith of the UConn game is the new one. He’s the last player one expects to be dribble driving, being an offensive force, with few vestiges of his three-point prowess remaining. Pitino says the three-point drought has made him a better player.
  • Edgar Sosa’s tears after the Pittsburgh game may have had something to do with the decisions against UConn, finding his teammates with eight assists while hitting six of nine shots himself. More than enough points to go around, and he’s much happier.
  • Terrence Jennings is still way behind on the learning curve but those blocked shots always seem to come at the right time. Pitino says he will be a very good basketball player. Trust him.
  • Reginald Delk is enjoying the game, now that he’s more than a spot shooter, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal to go with his 10 points.
  • Credit one Stephen Van Treese with some valuable relief work during his six minutes in the first half, getting schooled by the UConn big men, collecting three fouls destined for Samuels or Jennings.
  • You can bet that Pitino is focused on Jared Swopshire, the player who hit the three-point shot from the corner but thinks too much and leaves other shooters open too often. Pitino is on the case.

Louisville-West Virginia Not Child’s Play

By Tom Stosberg

Anybody got some extra flak jackets Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings could borrow for a couple of hours? They promise to give them right back after Saturday.

One of those puny WWE smackdowns will seem like an afternoon in a church library compared to the Louisville-West Virginia basketball game at the cleverly named West Virginia University Coliseum.

About six years ago they put a new roof on the coliseum. Sorry. It’s coming off this weekend.

Sam Sam and T.J. will have their hands full banging with WVU’s biggies. The Mountaineers are led by DeSean Butler, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound senior averaging 16 points and 6.4 rebounds. He’s accompanied by a couple of sophomores who play like upperclassmen – 6-foot-9 Devin Ebanks and 6-foot-8 Kevin Jones, who are averaging 11.3 and 14.9 points, respectively, while pulling down eight rebounds apiece.

Oh, and their guys all have played a minimum of 30 minutes per game. So they know how to play together very well. I repeat, the two youngsters play like veterans.

The guards know how to find these guys. When sweet and lovable Bobby Huggins isn’t helping old ladies across the street, he’s teaching these studs how to block out under the basket.

Bring ‘em on. This just could be the game that our bigs get ticked off and tear down the backboards! Hope so. Go get ‘em, Cards!

Louisville Absorbing Tough Lessons

Increasingly one gets the feeling that this season is one of preparation for seasons to come. Going chin to chin with the looks-deprived, muscle-bound, blue collars at Pittsburgh was a major challenge for this University of Louisville basketball team.

Leading most of the game, mixing it up, taking the blows, falling short, but learning what it takes for a team to win in this rugged conference. Not succeeding but taking note, even if grudgingly.

Initiation time for freshmen and sophomores on the road in the Big East gauntlet.

  • Senior Edgar Sosa missing three straight free throws when they count the most. From that point on, just a matter of time. Senior Jerry Smith fouling a player who has hit between 45 and 50 straight free throws to the line for two automatics, sending the game into overtime. Senior Reginald Delk is a phantom player, out of sight until he hits a shot or commits a foul.
  • Samardo Samuels benefiting from lessons learned and getting the ball more often, no longer intimidated by opposing brutes or fearful of hurting someone. He’s more aggressive, wanting the ball, not dribbling, taking it to the basket, earning every one of those 25 points the right way.
  • Preston Knowles, or Preston! as he is known by some, plays with intensity and confidence. But most of all he wants to win. He knows no other way. Watch and learn, seniors.
  • Peyton Siva back to playing tentative, like a typical freshmen, perhaps intimidated or beaten into submission by brutal play in college basketball these days. Never fear. Andre McGee will bring him around.
  • Mike Marra will be a shooter. Give it time.

They’re also learning that a building full of jumping Duke wannabes and ugly T-shirts is more like the atmosphere at Chuckie Cheese’s than a college basketball arena. Students having the most visible seats can be a bad thing. Even embarrassing for the institution.