Just so you know, every game from here on out is going to be an adventure.

This University of Louisville basketball team could quite possibly be getting its act together, refusing to lose against a Villanova unit that is also putting the pieces back together, looking far better than a 10-11 team.

A week and a half ago, U of L could well have been on the other side of an 84-74 score, especially with Chane Behanan and Russ Smith both fouling with more than five minutes remaining. Gorgui Dieng, well, he would have been on the bench even earlier with the way this game was called.

Jay Wright appeared to spend more time working on the officials than he did with his team, the officiating so inconsistent and unpredictable. He may have had a point. It isn’t often that an officiating crew is so soundly chastised by the crowd at the KFC Yum! Center. Big East games are not conducive to on-the-job training.

Getting back to the point, however, there were encouraging signs for U of L:

  • Peyton Siva is getting his legs back, along with his shooting touch, if the Villanova game is any indication. Four of nine from the field is a good start, the mid-range shots a welcome sight. The confident look returning to his eyes, evoking greater confidence and scoring opportunities for his teammates.  What’s missing lately is his ability to drive the land with any ease, wondering where to go next when he gets caught short.
  • Russ Smith is striving to get with the team concept, passing up shots he wouldn’t have given a second thought in the recent past. Looking for his teammates, finding some open men, winding up with a total of five assists in 16 minutes. He says he’s working on it, and we believe him.
  • Gorgui Dieng, with still another double-double, 13 rebounds and 12 points. Called for four fouls, a couple of them questionable, he’s learning to lean into people, realizing that some moves draw whistles whether they are fouls or not.
  • Chane Behanan playing closer to the basket, making it easier for him to back into defenders, making all that muscle and weight work for him instead of wasting those natural advantages.
  • Chris Smith becoming a fearless shooter, bam, bam, on two three pointers early. Missing his next six shots before his third three-pointer at the 15:42 mark in the second half.  Four of 10 from the field, when they’re good, they’re impressive. No so otherwise.
  • Kyle Kuric gets plenty of attention from Villanova defenders but not enough. Making three of four free throws, but not getting to the line often enough.
  • Jared Swopshire with the dagger, the three-pointer from the corner. Breaking out of his trance, piercing the net, mixing it up for tha that one rebound. A little hero worship for a couple of days may do him good.
A couple of wins in a row, signs of the old Siva, a team-player Russ Smith, a more forceful Chane Behanan, a more restrained Gorgui Dieng, a fearless Chris Smith, a focused Jared Swopshire, and old reliable Kyle Kuric.


Doing better against the bottom third of the conference lately, improving shooting, toughness and confidence, girding for the stretch grind.
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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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