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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Unfortunately, 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.
The images that will linger from the University of Louisville basketball team’s 71-65 win over North Carolina are those of Damion Lee knocking down those three-point shots.
Was this what the Las Vegas oddsmakers envisioned when they made UofL a two-point favorite over the nation’s second-ranked team? Not logical, not mathematically possible, or very likely for a team that looked so disjointed Saturday in a 16-point loss on Saturday.
The gaming wizards are familiar with Rick Pitino’s pedigree, cognizant of UofL’s rich tradition, and they, more than anyone, know that anything can happen in college basketball this season. Why not just make Louisville a two-point favorite? Yeah, that made a lot of sense.
None of that mattered to Damion Lee. This was where he wanted to be in the spotlight, prime time, against North Carolina, 22,781 Cardinal fans fully engaged from beginning to end.
Right on cue, there he was, Damion Lee back in his groove. One, two, three, four 3-pointers from a player who was lost in the wilderness two days ago. He would score 22 of his 24 points before North Carolina all but shut him down at the 9:35 mark. He would collect his final two on game-clinching free throws with eight seconds to go.
Trey Lewis — When Lee cooled down, his fellow transfer would take stock, control his emotions and take over from that point, except for one slip and a turnover that would enable North Carolina to keep it close. Lewis would score eight of his nine points, in the final seven minutes. Fully in control, sinking those two free throws near the end.
Chinanu Onuaku — The big guy is still unpredictable, spinning back and forth between regression and progress every other play. Still lacking full control over his body, he’s too unpredictable for officials when he’s bouncing around. He makes the easy look hard so when he makes a good move he shocks his most loyal fans. Onuaku back in the double-double category again with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Stay well, Chinanu.
Anas Mahmoud — The look on his face says he’s just about got this basketball game figured out. The problem still is that his body has yet to catch up with his smarts. That behind-the-back pass to Damion Lee in the first half, a move that had Pitino wondering whether seeing was believing, needing Ralph Willard to confirm what had just happened.
Donovan Mitchell — Brings a level-headed approach to the game, along with occasional bursts of energy, which if he can manage better, will make him an All America candidate before he leaves UofL. Good for 10 points and five rebounds.
Ray Spalding — One never knows what he’s going to do next, throwing up all kinds of shots, a couple of them finding their way through the net. A little more self control and he could work some wonders. Gotta quit flailing, control himself, collecting too many fouls, four in this one.
Not an upset, this win, not when Las Vegas has made you the favorite. Certainly surprising after a miserable performance on Saturday. Definitely the best win yet, a harbinger of more to come this season.