The pre-game motivational stuff from Rick Pitino, Terrence Williams, Andre McGee and company was enough to get their Louisville team sufficiently pumped for the first 15 minutes or so. Somewhere around that point, however, Jay Wright would do a little motivating of his own, collecting a technical foul, shaking up his players and the guys wearing stripes.
Before Wright stormed the floor, this was a Louisville team reminiscent of some of the great ones in headliner games, the kind Cards would usually win, turning fans into fanatics. Whether it was adrenaline-inspired, simply an apparition or a preview of things to come, U of L’s performance before Jay Wright’s theatrics provide encouragement for what lies ahead.
- Samardo Samuels, with a different look in his eyes, playing like coaches and fans had hoped he was capable, aggressive, going after the ball, not getting pushed around. Hitting an oh-my-God hook shot, hitting all four shots he takes, including 13 of 13 free throws. Samuels gained considerable respect in this game. Now if his teammates can get him the ball often, he’s ready and willing.
- Peyton Siva, now that his wrist is better and he’s gotten over the newby syndrome, displayed why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. Two great steals, questionably classified as fouls, could have turned the game at the end. He knows his way down the lane, twisting and turning, somehow getting the ball to Samuels. He’s only just begun.
- Jerry Smith, as the person next to me observed, will either do something spectacular and incredibly stupid, just often enough that fans have come to expect it. One nice three-point shot but he remains in a shooting slump, hitting one of six shot attempts. Six rebounds but five turnovers? Something’s not right.
- Preston Knowles looking like a player who actually has a few flaws, making surprising turnovers, missing those surprising shots he has hit so often fans have come to count on them. No doubt those qualities will return.
- Jared Swopshire, getting in foul trouble too early, just not enough of him to go around.
- Kyle Kuric is fearless around the boards. Find your shot, Kyle, soon.
Rick Pitino, fearless wearing the white suit. He had this team ready to play. Some just couldn’t finish.