Louisville eases up again, but survives Florida State surge

One never knows what to expect with this particular University of Louisville basketball team. Nothing assured as long the game clock is running. The opposing team, not about to roll over, knowing there will always be a chance.

Give these UofL players a decent lead, they will let up, get ahead of themselves, look ahead to the next round.  The Cardinals racing to a 23-point lead with eleven and a half minutes in the second half. Florida State not rolling over, aware of Louisville’s recent history, using the adversity as motivation.

The Seminoles would start making every shot, good, bad or indifferent, cutting the deficit to six points in the final minute. But the Cardinals would make five of their last six shots, Quentin Snider would hit both free throw attempts with 15 seconds to go. Louisville would hang on for a 82-74 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.

Snider, playing like time is running out on his collegiate career, playing with authority, trusting his 3-point shot, leading the way. Leading his team with 19 points, including three of seven behind the 3-point line, five rebounds and six assists. Deserving, perhaps earning a chance to play NCAA tournament ball his senior season.

Ray Spalding, missing eight minutes with two fouls in the first half, providing a steady presence beneath the basket. Playing with confidence, wanting the ball, making those little hooks look smoother and easier of late.  One wonders what if he had another season to work on them. 

Deng Adel playing a supporting role  in this game. Laying off the dizzy-whiz stuff, passing the ball, getting eight rebounds and two assists, taking what the defense gives him, winding up with 15 points.

Anas Mahmoud still missing those sure-thing, two-foot shots but blocking five Florida State shots, making six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Not bad but one still has to wonder what he would be doing had added some weight to his frame. 

Dwayne Sutton, making his case for more playing time when it counts, contributing 10 points and, notably, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.

Hang on. Another Louisville-Virginia game this way comes.

502 Crew dials up a needed win for Louisville basketball

The 502 Crew of Dwayne Sutton, Quentin Snider, and Ray Spalding delivered big time, including 51 points (Kenny Klein photo).

There is life, indeed a beating heart, within this University of Louisville basketball team. Players not throwing in the towel just yet, deciding that they still have much to play for with two games remaining in the regular season. 

Despite all of the recent challenges, the UofL program represents one of the best in the nation. The Virginia Tech fan base, which hasn’t seen their team win against Louisville since 1991, was hungry for a win, salivating when the Hokies raced to a 28-18 lead over the Cardinals. 

The Hokies were looking formidable at the time, ready to assert dominance, ready to bury the Cardinals. Students in a fever, jumping, laughing, pumping their fists, knowing their time was now. Time for Louisville to throw in the towel, and roll over. Or so they thought.

Fortunately for UofL there are players with roots in the community, have grown up watching Louisville basketball, wanting to play at UofL. They would be  Ray Spalding, Quentin Snider and Dwayne Sutton — the best from the 502 area code — not ready to give up on the season.

Snider and Sutton would serve notice that UofL wasn’t going anywhere, scoring eight of their team’s next eight points. The home crowd was stunned, and could only watch as Sutton sank two free throws to give the Cardinals a 32-31 lead.

Spalding, Snider and Sutton would collectively contribute 51 of Louisville’s points, 24 rebounds and eight assists in 75-68 win at Virginia Tech. Sutton, a sophomore thrust into a starting role, would have a career high of 17 points. Snider would wind up with 22 points, including seven 3-pointers.

Spalding, who would score eight straight points at one point in the second half, would have 12 points and seven rebounds.

Deng Adel complementing the 502 crew with one of the best all-around games of his career. Buying into the team game mojo, generously providing an incredible eight assists to his teammates while pulling down nine rebounds and making 10 points.

An impressive win against a good opponent in a hostile environment during an otherwise discouraging week for Louisville basketball. The 502 crew providing some reason for hope when it was sorely needed.

Deng Adel back in full force as UofL kayos VA Tech

Deng Adel finds his shooting touch when UofL needs it most, connecting on four 3-pointers and 27 points against Virginia Tech (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Now that was the Deng Adel many fans of University of Louisville basketball remember from last season, the consensus player, the one letting the offense come to him, finding open teammates, taking care of the basketball.

Ryan McMahon’s enthusiasm is contagious, especially when he’s knocking shots in from downtown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The one people feared would be leaving after only two seasons to pursue a professional basketball career, the one responsible for a collective sigh of relief when he chose to return to UofL for his junior year. The same player who disappeared in the first half against arch rival Kentucky this season, the one having problems with so many turnovers.

Deng Adel is apparently back, seemingly recharged and recommitted the past two games, transforming himself, becoming a serious offensive threat inside and outside. Becoming a serious contender on the boards on Saturday, pulling down 11 rebounds. Generously sharing the ball, getting credited with three assists — one, two, three of them.

Adel becoming more comfortable with or buying into Coach David Padgett’s system, embracing the team concept, benefitting himself and his fellow Cardinals. He would connect 10 of 15 field goal attempts, including four of six 3-pointers, to lead all scorers with 27 points.

"It was fun. The best part was just looking at the bench and seeing how hyped the guys were and then just playing together, making sure it's a balanced, team effort."

A new career high for Adel, embracing the leadership role, reaping the rewards in Louisville’s 94-86 win over Virginia Tech in front of a crowd of 16,798 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. Scoring seven consecutive during a critical second-half stretch and making two huge defensive stops.

“It was fun,” he said afterwards. “The best part was just looking at the bench and seeing how hyped the guys were and then just playing together, making sure it’s a balanced, team effort.”

Making his teammates better, Quentin Snider and V. J. King with 19 and 16 points, respectively. Ryan McMahon coming through with two long-distance 3-pointers and 10 points. Adel taking up the slack with Ray Spalding on the bench with foul problems, with Anas Mahmoud having one of those awkward outings.

The Cardinals will take a 13-4 won-lost record and 3-1 conference record to Notre Dame on Tuesday. They will also take a newly-inspired Deng Adel, and a much-improved outlook to a place where they haven’t won a game since 1994.

Mahmoud, Spalding live big, Louisville routs Siena

The light switch may have finally been flipped for Anas Mahmoud in an 86-60 win for the University of Louisville over Siena College before a crowd of 17,215 at the KFC Yum! Center. 

Whether the switch remains in the on position depends on whether he continues to be an active participant  or is only passively involved. One can hope that he stays as engaged as he was during the second half. Apparently something he heard at halftime got him going.

Ray Spalding and Jordan Nwora battle for a rebound,with Spalding prevailing this night (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The 7-foot senior center went from a decent first half to a dominant second half, stuffing the stat sheet — dunking on Siena over and over in final 20 minutes — on his way to a near triple double, with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots.

Mahmoud has shown brief glimpses of potential during the past three seasons but nothing resembling his latest showing, energy that was lacking from him in the team’s two losses. Not like overwhelming Siena is anything to write home about, but at least it’s a start. 

“Ray (Spalding) and I need to make things happen under the basket to take some of the pressure off the guards,” he said after the game. Indeed.  He also could added something about the intensity level he brought to the game in that second half.

Spalding, meanwhile, was scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking four shots, and making four steals. Spalding and Mahmoud had managed only two points and nine rebounds in Sunday’s two-point loss to Seton Hall.

So Mahmoud and Spalding came out of their shells, at least temporarily, confirming that they may have the ability to live up to their potential. Nothing to get overly excited about, not until they live up to the talk, the promise, and prove they can do it and do it consistently again better competition.

An indication of whether the switch has really flipped for these guys will come soon enough, with UofL entertaining Indiana at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

University of Louisville no brainer for Ray Spalding

Home grown talent is always the best possible situation, local players having extra incentive to win.

Ray Spalding ended the speculation Sunday, letting everybody know he has committed to pursue his college career at the University of Louisville.

He’s the second four-star basketball player from the community to commit to Hometown U in the past two years.SPALDING,-RAYMOND_6_25_150 Spalding a 6-foot-9, 200-pound center from Trinity High School, will join Quentin Snider from Ballard on the roster during the 2015-16 season. Snider will be a freshman during the upcoming season.

The best possible fit for a youngster who grew up cheering for the Louisville Cardinals, as he told the Courier-Journal on Sunday:

“It’s a blessing and a dream come true. For a humble kid like me coming from Louisville, to be able to say I could play at the university some day, it’s an honor.”

A couple of days earlier, he told the CJ:

“It’s pretty good being a hometown kid getting a hometown (scholarship) offer,” he said Thursday at the Adidas Invitational, where U of L coach Rick Pitino watched his game. “It’s been pretty crazy going from store to store (in Louisville), and (people say), ‘Oh, you’re Raymond Spalding?’ … But it’s been great.”

Spalding averaged 13.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last season in leading Trinity to the semi-finals of the Kentucky High School Basketball Tournament.

Added motivation is a big deal at crunch time.