Someone had the Louisville basketball players in awe of their first round opponent, pounding into their heads just how tough Morehead State would be, not a team to take lightly, a monster of a team, clean your clock if you take them lightly.
They played those first eight-and-a-half minutes as if they were more nervous about Morehead State than playing in the opening game of the NCAA tournament. Stumbling off the bus, falling behind 15-2 in the shakiest start for U of L basketball in recent memory.
Good to instill respect for an opponent in one’s players, but scaring them to death? Whoa.
Morehead State is a decent team and Kenneth Faried is an exceptional rebounder. But when it counted in the first round of the NCAA, this Louisville team bore little resemblance to the one that won 25 games.
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When a twisted toe ended Preston Knowles’ college career, it quickly became obvious that Knowles was the one player Louisville could not afford to lose in a continuing saga of injuries this season. The leader, the indispensable, the soul of this team, as he went so did his team.
Knowles was the inspiration, the conscience. the motivator, the glue. Without him there was no synergy.
The memories that will linger from this game unless we choose to completely block it from our memories include Preston hopping along on one leg, hopefully to find a quick cure in the dressing room, Preston in agony wanting the pain to go away just long enough to finish the game. Preston helplessly watching his teammates finish without him, pleading for them to get the job done. Preston sitting on the bench all by himself after the game.
Without Knowles this was a very ordinary team. A rare commodity, and he is gone.
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Should be used to it by now but every time Terrence Jennings misses one of those easy lay ups, the observer lets loose with a stream of expletives. One of his advisors says Jennings lacks balance, a way of saying he’s not very coordinated. But if one has been in the gym every day for the past 10 or 15 years, there should be a way to compensate.
On the other hand, no one is better than Jennings when it comes to shot blocking other big men. This is when he becomes focused and intimidating. He blocked four of Kenneth Faried’s shots today, all but canceling out that portion of Faried’s game. Jennings is Dr. Jekyll on defense and Mr. Hyde on offense.
Might be a good idea for him to place a call to Felton Spencer who had a bit of “balance” problem when he was a freshman. Took a few ballet lessons, improving his coordination. Wound up having a nice NBA career.
Maybe some chiropractic assistance? Or possibly one of those Wii fitness games could be the key. Hey, we’re just trying to be helpful. Find a cure and U of L is a contender again.
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Rick Pitino will shoulder the responsibility for the loss. But it was also Pitino who transformed a team with no returning starters to being one of the all-time favorite Louisville teams. A team, he said, that restored his faith in young people, that made him feel young again, that made him fall in love with coaching all over again.
While the early exit in the first round is disappointing, he is the same coach who turned a “bridge” year into an unbelievably successful season, bringing back memories of great Louisville teams from the past, making it possible for U of L fans to believe anything was possible.