No Doze: Louisville 60, St. John’s 47

Another sleepy Sunday afternoon. Mediocre opponent. Neutral court. Poor shooting. Jerry Smith not starting. Terrence Williams not hitting. Been there.

Back to the big city, home territory for Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, and Will Scott and the hangout for many Rick Pitino contacts. Madison Square Garden, scene of 10 losses in the last 11 visits.

Not pretty, but not déjà vu. Not this trip.

The jovial part of T-Will missing.  Hitting three free throws for his only points but keeping his head up and into the game, knowing he’s the leader this time around, seven rebounds and eight assists. Invaluable.

Jerry Smith, he of the slow feet, hitting 11 of 11 free throws and leading all scorers with 21 points. Not starting, but not riding the bench much either, Pitino recognizing that he is indispensable in this kind of game.

Samardo Samuels unveiling some new moves, collecting nine points before catching an elbow in the mouth, losing two teeth, heading to a New York hospital for oral surgery. Pitino with his New York connections probably getting prompt medical attention for him. No sitting around in Manhattan emergency waiting rooms.

Terrence Jennings checking in, needing to be a force, playing big, pulling down the rebounds Louisville had to have, winding up with seven of them, five on the offensive end. Providing exactly the kind of raw talent and strength Louisville needed in a bruising toughest.eam-wins kind of game.

Andre McGee stepping back, sinking a 15-footer, giving the Cards an eight-point lead, making a three-possession game at the 1:57 mark.

Earl Clark making only two turnovers, progress. Twelve points and eight rebounds. Still, would have been a good day in front of family and friends to put the team on his shoulders. Maybe next time, has to happen soon, running out of regular season.

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File The Memories, Pittsburgh Looms

By Charlie Springer

Anyone else have trouble sleeping the night of the Notre Dame game? Eyes closed but the mind still churning, dwelling on T-Will dunks, Earl Clark explosions, Samardo Samuels put-backs, Terrence Jennings blocks, Edgar Sosa’s prayer shots, and Kyle McAlarney being hounded by Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Andre McGee.

Visions lingering, lingering longer than those years-ago hangovers. The observer had to catch a three-hour nap the next afternoon to get back to normal. Tuck the memories away for now, move on. There is work to do, other issues, each game bigger than the last one.

Still, the observer would venture that Louisville hasn’t played a game at that level against such a good opponent since 1986. Yes, of course, we remember the comeback versus West Virginia in 2005, the Tennessee finish in 2001, and all the Memphis and Marquette thrillers.

Games like these are what turn ordinary fans into full-fledged fanatics and raise expectations through the roof. Four breath-stopping finishes in less than 10 days. The difference between Monday’s game and the other games is that UofL was playing at a much higher level against Notre Dame. No miracle comeback required.

Among many reasons to be nervous as No. 1 Pittsburgh comes calling Saturday is whether this particular group of Cards will have a mental letdown after so many close games. One can expect Rick Pitino to dig deep into his repository of motivational kick-starts for a pre-game speech that will rival all others this weekend. How much would you pay to hear that one?

Memories of last season’s game at Pittsburgh are dominated by flashes of burly monsters who constantly dominated the backboards, obscenely stuffed the baskets, and physically abused the Cards while rarely getting called for fouls. Yeah, the Cards lost for the third straight year to Pitt in the Big East Tournament. Memories of those games non-existent. Intentionally or unintentionally, who knows?

Time to create new memories: The Notre Dame game may have been child’s play compared to what’s coming Saturday.

Lady Cards Now 16-1

The Louisville women’s basketball is having a special season, too, off to an incredible 16-1 start. Two wins in a row the last two seasons over perennial power Rutgers. They would be undefeated if they had not played Nevada and some questionable officiating on Nevada’s home court but you won’t get any excuses from Jeff Walz.

If you’re a University of Louisville fanatic, you owe yourself the next home game against Cincinnati next Tuesday, at 8 p.m. at Freedom Hall. Angel McCoughtry is as good as they say she is, an exceptional basketball player.

Before that happens, however, the Lady Cards face South Florida in Tampa tonight (see Sonja’s preview) at 8, and they travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to face Georgetown at 4 p.m.  One week later, they will play No. 1 UConn (15-0) on the road.

Catch your breath if you follow both the men’s and women’s teams. Huge times ahead.

Another Freedom Hall Classic

By Charlie Springer

The latest experience begins with the observer forking over a pile of cash for two prime seats, anticipating that this would be one of those kind of games. An investment that would be rewarded tenfold with a magnificent view: a defensive masterpiece that would rival any seen in dozens, maybe hundreds of games at Freedom Hall over the years.

— You’ve seen them, we’ve all seen, games where someone emerges as a star, someone who has to be reckoned with. It happened for Louisville in this game. The eruption of Terrence Jennings as a defensive behemoth. Luke Harangody unable to miss a shot for much of the game, tip-ins, hooks, jumpers, three-pointers, it didn’t matter where, anywhere and everywhere. Until Terrence Jennings emerged. Thwarted. Not once, not twice, but three times. That wasn’t in the game films, huh Luke?

— Kyle McAlarney will be seeing the nostrils and sniffing the arm pits of Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and mclarneyAndre McGee in his nightmares until the teams meet again on Feb. 12 at South Bend. A player who could probably make a good living as a Notre Dame leprechaun look-alike has an incredible, almost robotic precision as a shooter.  When denied three-pointers, he attacks the basket with equal ability. That is until Smith, Knowles and McGee deny him any semblance of daylight.

Earl Clark. Forty-three minutes of emotion and all-out effort. He’s playing for the name on the front of the jersey now, the rest will follow. He keeps surprising fans with startling new moves previously unimaginable for No. 5.

— Terrence Williams had the look before the tipoff. A special night, a special game. He knew it would take a special effort, one of the kind of efforts you look back at after your career is done. He has impressed many times at Louisville but never more often in one game. How fitting it would have been if his final shot in regulation had counted. Replays indicate that it should have but what the heck. Do an encore in overtime.

— Samardo Samuels is quickly gaining on the learning curve, taking Harangody to the basket time and time again, knowing that half the fouls would never be called. Collecting 18 points himself, most of them requiring body-jarring effort.

Yeah, just had to have that mind-bogging, twisting prayer from Edgar Sosa bouncing off the glass straight into net abyss. Had to be good, just had to be good in this game.

The Speech.  You know, the pre-game motivational ones, the Rick Pitino specials, each of them unique, fiery, making you want to charge the bayonets. Pitino, the masterful motivator.

________________________

Other views of the game: Frank at Hell In The Hall and Mike at Card Chronicle.

Dream Game At The Sykes

By Sonja Sykes

I’ve slowly come to the realization that I am the only Cardinal fan over 45 that wasn’t in Knoxville Coliseum back in 1983. Maybe I can get some props for my attendance in 1980 at Market Square Arena to see the Cards win it all. I was eight months pregnant at the time, had to pee the entire second half and almost marched down several rows with full intent to cuff a loudmouth UCLA fan whose mama would have been very upset about the language he was using.

We were there in Nashville in 1982, to see the ‘almost’ dream game between the University of Louisville and Middle Tennessee.  Way before cell phones, I-PODS and laptops…I stood in line at halftime to call my mom and see how my two year old Angela was feeling, talked to her and got a incoherent lecture from a drunk Cardinal fan behind me in line that pay phones were for people who had pressing business and not to coo over the phone to their daughter.  If I’d had a gun, I would have shot him. Instead, I looked him squarely in the eyes and told him to place a certain part of his anatomy in a very unnatural and probably uncomfortable part of his body. Even Paul was shocked.

‘I still believe to this day
that it was that
evening/early morning
that was the conception date
of my youngest daughter …’

When it was determined that the Cards would, in fact, actually meet the Cats in Knoxville in 1983…we went to work to obtain tickets. That search ended a day later when Paul informed me he had to work a half day that day, no way to get out of it and he encouraged me to make the trip anyway. I declined. Back then, I was less inclined to enter into away and neutral venues without the big guy riding shotgun.  We accepted an invitation to attend a “Dream Game” party and kids were welcome, too.

I made a dish to take to the party that morning, don’t remember what I concocted…but I used to make a pretty tasty lima bean casserole back then. Paul’s buddy Bob phoned from his apartment, from the party waiting for us to arrive. Angela and I were waiting impatiently on the couch when the big guy got home. Practically changed his clothes for him and shooed him out to the car.  He revealed to me on the drive over that he’d stopped briefly after work to have a pregame drink with a few co-workers. If looks were daggers, he’d been terminated on the spot.

The party was warming up when we arrived. It seemed Cardinal fans were gravitating to the basement TV, and the Cat clan had dibs on the living room console. Fair enough, we had the keg. They had the food. Paul’s buddy Bob..who had hair back then and resembled a young Jimmy Buffett, was already more than tipsy and planted a kiss on me that would have had us legally engaged in some areas.  He then proceeded to sit in my lap and bemoan the fact he couldn’t find the “right” woman.

Paul was nowhere to be found (He told me later he had been upstairs antagonizing the Big Blue faithful and sampling without consent a Big Blue backer’s bourbon from the kitchen.) We watched the pregame hoopla, and Bob fell asleep on my shoulder, drooling just like my daughter. Somewhere the photos probably still exist of a dozing Bob wearing a UK cap and hastily scrawled sign across his chest reading: “GO WILDCATS!! DENNY IS A BUM.”

Finally, tip off. Most of you know how the game went, Master’s lucky basket and the incredible Cardinal overtime domination. We shouted, groaned, exchanged cheers with the folks upstairs and Bob and Paul danced around the room as if they were on the court themselves. My daughter Angela played contentedly with a couple of Big Blue kids in one of the bedrooms…unaware of the war that raged outside that door.

When the Cards went up by six, Bob and Paul exchanged flying ‘high fives’ that sent both of them sprawling back to the seats of their pants on the carpeted basement floor. If only You Tube had been around back then. Our hosts, with mixed school loyalties, cracked bottles of champagne for us right after the final buzzer. She beamed happily and he forced a rueful grin.

After the contest, the Cards fans celebrated with giddy glee and we eventually extended good sportsmanship condolences to the UK fans that were still there. The afternoon eventually drifted into a calm, laid back evening…a happy ride home and I still believe to this day that it was that evening/early morning that was the conception date of my youngest daughter Rachel.

And, I’m pretty sure Bob wasn’t there.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

His final high school game was a memorable one for Jerry Smith. It would be the last time he would play for his coach and dad, Jerry Smith, Sr., at Wauwatosa East High, notching 46 points that night, just one point shy of the school’s single-game scoring record.jerry.jpeg

Smith scored 31 points in the first half of his final game, eventually raising his total to 46 with a three-pointer. That’s when it happened, the injury, fracturing a bone in his right foot. That would be the final prep game for Smith, a two-time Wisconsin All-State guard. No more games for Jerry, no chance of a state championship for Wauwatosa East.

Should come as no surprise to Card fans that Smith was injured while playing defense. Smith is relentless on that side of the ball, challenging his man’s every dribble, pass, and shot, making his role in a 2-3 zone resemble man-to-man coverage. Watch him play D against Georgetown. He’s all business, a great role model and pure inspiration for reserve Preston Knowles.

David Padgett, getting most of his shots around the basket, has a higher shooting percentage. But Jerry Smith is the Cards’ best shooter, hitting 47 percent of his field goal attempts and 39 percent from the three-point line. He is also hitting 77 percent of his free throw shots. No anxiety for fans or coaches when Jerry takes a shot, he rarely takes a bad one. If he’s open, the opposition is in trouble.

Smith does all he does so effortlessly, so smoothly that he often goes unnoticed. Just contributes in every way imaginable.