A lot of good things happened in U of LÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s 80-60 win over South Florida, pushing the CardsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ record to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in Big East conference play. Among them:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Terrence Williams handing out 10 assists in the first half. Has U of L ever had a more unselfish player as physically talented as Williams?
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Earl Clark hitting eight of 12 shots for 18 and eight rebounds. Probably more motivated as a reserve than as a starter.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Defense holding the Bulls to 40 percent shooting, 22 of 55 shots from the field, 5 of 16 from three-point range. The carnival shooters from Seton Hall relegated to ugly memories.
— Jerry Smith, consistently good, never shot happy even though he’s the team’s best shooter, serious about defense.
But there continue to be some troubling issues:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Team relaxing, letting up when it gets a good lead, lacking a killer instinct, allowing South Florida to get back to within 14 points in the second half.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Edgar Sosa forgetting his role as play maker, getting lost in traffic, killing momentum. Everybody loves the guy but if this continues, Edgar is going to keep losing playing time. Rick Pitino may even forget to put Sosa in for a couple of games.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ David Padgett missing layup after layup. Obviously, still recovering.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Derrick Caracter going backwards these days, rarely contributing in the last two games.
Not as bad as Kentucky, about even with Cincinnati, not as good as Dayton …
Before the win over UK, U of L fans would have had been deluding themselves if they gave this basketball team a five on a scale of 1 to 10. The Cards had lost to four teams they could have beaten while not looking very impressive in achieving the nine wins.
A win over Kentucky, the hated arch rival to the east — no matter how bad the Cats are — is reason enough for temporary amnesia about early season play. Beating the Wildcats on their home court, shutting up their vocal fan base, has that kind of effect.
Assuming the win over the Cats was the result of “smart play” and not driven by high levels of adrenaline, Card fans have a number of reason to believe this team can still be among the best U of L teams in a couple of decades:
- The miraculous return of David Padgett with his leadership abilities. Padgett’s desire to play basketball is exceeded only by his will to win. He has earned his position as a leader, and his teammates are taking note.
- Juan Palacios, if he plays like he did in Lexington, will be another stabilizing force on the front line.
- Derrick Caracter seems to have discovered the ability to feed open teammates. That’s good because the opposition is becoming more effective in stopping him around the basket.
- Jerry Smith is exuding confidence behind the three-point line. Knows when to shoot and when to dish.
- Terrence Williams obviously has the physical attributes. Showed last season he can play smart and under control. That’s the form to which he needs to return.
Meanwhile, Andre McGee and Edgar Sosa need to settle into their respective roles. How soon that happens depends on how quickly Sosa comes around. Earl Clark? Quite a bit of ability but low levels of intensity thus far. If he ever becomes a team player, look out.