UofL follows Williams’ lead, blows past North Carolina

Malik Williams for two of his 17 points — Mike DeZarn photo

Samuell Williamson shows the form that will make him a breakout player for Louisville in the not-too-distant future. He had five points against North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So encouraging to see Malik Williams getting better, realizing his potential, with each game as the University of Louisville basketball team enters the home stretch. The uncertainty, the awkwardness, the inability to finish shots, all behind him on Saturday.

The 6-foot-10 junior, who has been described by teammate David Johnson as the team’s alpha dog, urging greater effort from fellow players in recent days, doing everything he can to provide extra motivation. Demanding, expecting, raising expectations.

Peyton Siva, Sr. was among the 21,076 fans enjoying every minute of the latest win over North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one in the crowd of 21,076 at the KFC Yum! Center could deny that he had not exceeded their expectations, and maybe his, in Louisville’s 72-55 win over North Carolina on Saturday.

It was the Cardinals’ 23rd win of the season against five losses, and the 14th win in 17 starts in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Good for a half game lead over Florida State in the ACC.

Williams, growing out of some of the uncertainty and awkwardness around the basket, going up with authority, finishing with regularity in the latest outing. More than 31 minutes of action, with little relief from Steven Enoch with the sore ankle, relishing every minute of playing time .

“Malik means a lot to our team,” said UofL Coach Chris Mack. “Not just the statistics, which continue to get better offensively and defensively. His presence on the defensive end. He’s put in a lot of work. His teammates respect the heck out of him and he’s one of the best bigs in our league.”

Consistency and leadership abounding. Williams would, in fact, make seven of 10 shots around the basket and one of two 3-point shots for 17 points.  He would also pull down nine rebounds, including four on the offensive board, block one shot and make two assists. 

He would also get plenty of help on the boards, with teammates Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton claiming 11 and nine rebounds, respectively. Nwora, with his fifth double-double this season, leading all scorers with 18 points. He was also praising Williams after the game.

“He’s been a great captain,” said Nwora. “He brings a lot of leadership and energy. Leading us every day. And me.”

Williams’ desire to see his fellow players get better, combined with his personal improvement, makes him an even more effective leader.

A future Cardinal getting immersed in the UofL basketball tradition (MIke DeZarn photo).

Louisville still looking for take charge guy after North Carolina loss

Best crowd of the season, 21,210 fans for the Louisville-North Carolina game at the KFC Yum! Center (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

University of Louisville basketball fans, bless their hearts, hoping for the return of the good times. An electric atmosphere, a white out game, a crowd of 21,210 on hand at the KFC Yum! Center. Ready to make some magic happen.

The frenzied throng would will their team back from an early deficit of 19 points only to  see UofL fall short time and time again. Unable to handle the pass, make the play, grab the rebound or make the shot that would have put the game on the line.

Deng Adel missing on this shot but leading UofL with 20 points and six assists (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A team seemingly unable to match the enthusiasm or confidence of its fans. Unable to make shots within point blank range, blowing all kinds of layups. Not a threat on the offensive boards, getting outscored 22-6 on second chance points.

Missing from UofL was a lack of any defensive presence in the 93-76 loss to North Carolina. The Cardinals unable to sustain any intensity on the defensive end, allowing the Tar Heels to make almost 50% of their shots.

As in UofL’s previous eight losses, fans looking for someone to provide some positive energy — take over a game, provide some leadership, refuse to lose — would be disappointed. The leadership doesn’t seem to be there, either from an individual or collective basis, verbally or by example. 

The latest loss occurring after impressive wins over two of the worst teams in the conference, dashing any hopes that UofL had turned any corners. Exposing the Cardinals, and their biggest weakness, still looking for leadership with four games to go in the regular season. 

 

Lamar Jackson, 6 times 6, Louisville downs North Carolina

Lamar Jackson (top photo) scores his first rushing touchdown of the season with a 53-yard jaunt early in the third quarter. Jackson (above) gets a pat on the head and congrats from from teammate Jaylen Smith (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Opposing teams almost know what to expect from Lamar Jackson.Read the scouting reports, Watch the film. Read and re-read the scouting reports, Watch the film. Plot and scheme for him all week long. Tailor their entire defensive plans to slow him down.

Their problem is catching him. Jackson is unpredictable. Not even he knows what he’s going to do next. Relying on his quickness, his instincts, his confidence, his fear of failure, his not wanting to go down, and his love of the game.

Cindy Rice Shelton photo.

His special talents on full display Saturday in the University of Louisville’s 47-35 win over North Carolina before a crowd of 47,635 at Chapel Hill.

“Lamar Jackson is every bit as good as everybody says he is and thinks he is,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora after witnessing Jackson’s special talents for himself..

Jackson threw for 393 yards and three touchdown while also running for 132 yards and three more TDs. The last one running through a gauntlet of would-be tacklers on an 11-yard run with 3:06 remaining. Capping a dominant fourth quarter for the Cardinals, improving their season to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

His favorite targets, junior Jaylen Smith and freshman Dez Fitzpatrick, making themselves available to him early and often. Smith had nine catches for a career-high 183 yards and a touchdown for Louisville, while Fitzpatrick was turning in two TDs.

UofL racking up a total of 705 offensive yards, compared to 401 for North Carolina. The good news was that UNC gained only 17 yards rushing. The bad news was at times they looked almost unstoppable in the passing game with 384 yards.

More great news coming with no fumbles, no interceptions, and only one false start. But still the Cardinals had their hands full, trailing 28-17 going into the fourth quarter. Jackson would put finish the Tar Heels off with a couple of touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.

The best news of all was UofL finding someone who can carry the ball besides Jackson. That would be freshman Malik Williams racking up 149 yards on 13 carries at a pace of 11.5 yards per carry.  Help has arrived.

Tepid free throw shooting torments Louisville

Long day for the University of Louisville basketball team. Sitting around in a hotel all day long, waiting for a 9 p.m. tipoff. Not exactly ideal.

Four of 13 free throw attempts? Not a good look for a team needing to rid itself of some nagging imperfections near the end of February. 

Missing the first six free throws, a weakness spreading to other parts of UofL’s game. The free shots bouncing off the back, the side and the front of the rim, a couple of them missing the rim entirely. 

Donovan Mitchell gets off to a slow start and Louisville pays (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Some familiar front line players still unable to find the bottom of a basket staring them in the face.  Unfamiliar territory despite all the practices and individual instruction. Familiar mistakes but not getting away with them against an upper echelon opponent. Little things, but big factors.

Maybe worse for the Cardinals was the fact that North Carolina was getting so many more trips to the foul line, making 21 of 29 of them. Not surprising but more than a little one-sided maybe?

Continue reading “Tepid free throw shooting torments Louisville”

Gender inclusive college athletic programs may be inevitable

Many of us won’t be around 20 years from now when NCAA member institutions combine all of the men’s and women’s teams into gender neutral programs. Something we would not mind missing out on.

restroomsUnfortunately, with the way most college presidents seem to think these days, the elimination of “duplicative” or “redundant” programs could occur even sooner. So concerned about “inclusivity” they are.

The NCAA took the first steps in that direction Monday when it pulled  seven championships from North Carolina this year, including men’s basketball tournament games, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse and women’s golf tournaments.

All because the state legislature passed a law this year that prevents cities from passing laws allowing individuals claiming to be transgender to use the restroom of their choice. Supporters of the state law were concerned that sexual deviants would take advantage of unlimited access.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference piled on, further punishing the state by removing eight ACC championship events, including the conference football title game, which was to be played at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 3.

“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” said John Swofford, conference commissioner.

Kami Mueller, a spokesman for groups reacting to the NCAA action, said, “I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms.”

She was roundly attacked by the progressive media, of course, arguing that the NCAA has “no intention of getting rid of women’s locker rooms or abolishing women’s sports.”

Not yet, maybe. Think of how much money the universities could save by combining the programs. And how big a political statement the college presidents could make by doing away with gender specific programs.

Rightly or wrongly, they may have already started down that road.