Snider, Mathiang and Deng back but Louisville defense tardy

Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang were back but the offense was sputtering before a late surge for the Unverrsity of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No concern the game does not begin well, Miami jumping out to an 8-0 lead over the University of Louisville. Not to worry, UofL almost back at full strength, with Quentin Snider back, along with Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel. Happy days are here again.

Fortunately for UofL, Jaylen Johnson was around to get the “lunch-pail”buckets, per Rick Pitino (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

That was exactly the kind of mentality that concerned Coach Rick Pitino before the game. “I was afraid of that,” he said afterwards. “We had been overachieving so much. Ninety-five to ninety percent of teams lose this game. Miami was the better basketball team, they totally outplayed us in every phase of the game.”

Indeed. The Hurricanes seemed to be scoring almost at will in the first half. “We let them drive by us on straight-line drives,” added the coach. “We didn’t rebound well, we didn’t shoot well and we didn’t pass well.”

Yet Pitino said the game may have been the best of the year character-wise. “When the game was on the line, we did all of the above,” he said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do on defense.”

Louisville emerged the 71-66 winner after scoring 13 straight points in the second half. The crushing blow, a three-point dagger followed by a free throw from Adel at the 4:22 mark, giving his team a six-point lead and its largest in the game. Adel would make two out of three 3-point attempts, sharing scoring honors with Donovan Mitchell with 18 points.

Snider would need a little time to get going after missing six games with a hip injury. He would miss all three of his shots in the first half, but hit three of five attempts in the second — including a crucial 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining.

Jaylen Johnson sometimes missing the easy shots but making the impossible ones, delivering what Pitino called a “lunch-pail” effort with 10 points, eight rebounds, a block and a couple of steals. 

Mathiang picking up the slack thankfully as Anas Mahmoud regresses. Anas with three turnovers, zero points and a couple of rebounds while Mangok is collecting seven points and eight rebounds — and three out of four free throw attempts.

The win improves UofL record to 20-5 overall, and 8-4 in the conference, tied for second place before the evening games. Syracuse next, at Syracuse on Monday.

Mariya Moore’s turn to shine, Louisville women edge Miami

Mariya Moore is not shy when it comes to shooting or rebounding, notching 24 points and 7 rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One never knows who’s going to grab the reins, assume the leadership role in a game for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, especially in grinders against top 20 opponents. 

Take your pick from Myisha Hines-Allen, Asia Durr or Mariya Moore. When one or more of them is having an off-game, count on at least one of them to be having an exceptional game. On Sunday it was Mariya Moore’s turn in the spotlight, putting the team on her shoulders in a 63-59 win over Miami.

Moore seemed to have an answer every time Miami got close, scoring eight of her game-high 24 points during the fourth quarter. She dropped in her fourth 3-pointer to give UofL a five-point lead after Miami had cut the margin to two points.

Fun, fun, fun for the crowd of 10,016 at the KFC Yum! Center, especially for the fan wearing the Lamar Jackson tux (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“Mariya wanted the ball today,” said Walz. “When she wants the ball, she screams for it. If you’re open and don’t get the ball, it’s because they don’t see you. You have to yell for it. She hit a big basket (a 3-pointer) going into half time.”

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Louisville basketball misfires, odds of ACC title remote and dwindling

Chances for a storybook ending to the 2015-16 season were lost for the University of Louisville when the school adopted a post-season tournament ban. A season when anything seemed possible, including a bid for a fourth national title.

With chances for another NCAA title going away, the focus shifted to another goal, capturing another big prize. A consolation prize, for sure, but one that carried significant prestige, a potential milestone in UofL history — an Atlantic Coast Conference regular season trophy. It would have been a great addition on Floyd Street, underscoring UofL’s status as one of college basketball’s premier program.

The odds against that happening this season are remote now, with UofL dropping the 75-63 decision at Miami. Those last few minutes closely resembling recent road losses to Notre Dame and Duke, with UofL unable to score and losing its defensive intensity down the stretch. Not a typical Rick Pitino-coached team on the road, losing its composure, losing its way, losing its identity.

One could see chances for an ACC title slipping away late in the second half, with UofL managing only one field goal in the last five minutes. Trey Lewis, who wound up with 13 points, couldn’t buy a basket, missing four field goal attempts during the scoring drought. Damion Lee, on the other hand, closely contained, looking lost, with six points, only two in the second half.

Shots going up from all angles, hard shots, air balls, one hitting the side of the backboard, all predictable misses during those final five minutes. No getting the ball in the paint, not that anyone seemed to be trying, anything goes. No stopping Miami’s Angel Rodriguez, with the never-changing expression, with the predictable crip shot, taunting UofL’s defense, making the hard shots look easy for him.

As a result, it’s pretty clear now there won’t be any new trophies arriving at Floyd Street this season. Not a bad season, with UofL owning a 22-6 record overall and 11-5 in the AC, some nice highs but more than a few lows. A couple of games remain — against Georgia Tech at home on Tuesday and against Virginia on the road Saturday. Virginia on the road can’t be much fun.

A disappointing end to the 2015-16 season, no matter what happens in the final two games.

Louisville eases up on press for Miami

Miami was going to be ready for the University of Louisville’s vaunted pressing defense, anticipating, preparing, wanting to see it, going with four guards in the starting lineup.

Shouldn’t been so obvious, not against a Hall of Fame coach. Rick Pitino didn’t run the full court press all night long. Louisville never trailed, prevailing 63-55 over a good Miami team.

Chris Jones good for another 40 minutes.
Chris Jones good for another 40 minutes.

The decision not to employ the press was a good one for another reason, ensuring the staying power of his guards, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, who would play 40 and 38 minutes, respectively, in an endurance contest.

Jones would have one of his better around nights for a Louisville point guard. He was everywhere, limiting Angel Rodriguez to five points while scoring 16 points, grabbing eight rebounds, making five assists and six steals.

“He never get tired,” said Pitino. “He’s like a bulldog out there.”

Another thing Jones does well is find Rozier, the go-to player when the game is on the line as it was during the last 10 minutes, with Miami continuing to cut into Louisville’s lead, down to three at one point.

Rozier is such a complete offensive player, always under control, always a threat, one wonders what might have been had he seen more than 17 minutes in that final NCAA game last season. But that’s another story.

Rozier would lead all scorers with 22 points, grab six rebounds and make three steals himself.

A brutal night for Montrezl Harrell, so used to being the force, getting floored twice, UofL fans with visions of the season floating away, waiting, hoping, praying for him to get up. He will, thankfully, getting right back into the fray. He will score 18 points and grab nine rebounds.

Yes, that was Wayne Blackshear driving, making that basket, after Miami had reduced the lead to three points with 2:06 on the clock. Seven points for the night, including a 3-pointer for UofL’s opening basket.

Petrino puts Card March back where it belongs for Louisville fans

Card March 2

Card March is back, with hundreds of fans, maybe thousands, wanting to get up close and personal with the University of Louisville football team on its way into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the season opener. The showing Monday probably even exceeding Coach Bobby Petrino’s expectations when he introduced the concept a decade ago.

Petrino and many of the players appeared to be surprised and overwhelmed by the show of support, the gathering of well-wishers so large that it was difficult for many fans to even see the players. Senior guard Jake Smith for one, pausing a couple of times on his way down the steps to take it all in. While not an altogether spontaneous gathering, it was the spot where many fans had to be, wanting to be a part of kicking off a special season.

The celebration was back at the Denny Crum Overpass, with players descending the steps, into the tunnel and on to the stadium. Back to the original location after former Coach Charlie Strong had moved it several times over four seasons, relocating the event three times last season alone. He once even threatened to cancel it.

For whatever reason, the event never seemed to gain much traction during Strong's tenure, the former coach often complaining about lack of turnout.

For whatever reason, the event never seemed to gain much traction during Strong’s tenure, the former coach often complaining about lack of turnout. That may have been due to several factors, including mediocre opponents, noon kickoffs and inconsistency. Under Strong, the team skipped Card March a couple of times during inclement weather, taking the bus directly to the locker room.

A baffling decision considering the team and fans were supposed be in this thing together. There may also have been some resentment, too, with Strong telling fans what they should be doing or how they ought to be, or comparing them with those of an arch-rival fan base.

Petrino has never gone out of his way to lecture the team’s fan base, recognizing that fan enthusiasm will grow with genuine anticipation, quality opponents and exciting football. The stadium was near capacity at kickoff against Miami, and there was no mass exodus in the last five minutes. The fans were loud when it counted, the coach giving them credit for their support on third-down defensive situations.

It may be a challenge to generate the same kind of fan intensity for an opponent like Murray State on Saturday but Card March is clearly back where it belongs.