UofL Hoops: The week in review
With two convincing wins over recent C-USA nemesis' Charlotte and St. Louis this week to begin conference play, there's an awful lot to be happy with about the Cards play. Each Monday, I'll take a look back at the previous week's action and give you my thoughts on both the good and not so good in ITV's "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" sections. So without further ado, here's this weeks "thumbs up" and "thumbs down."
The Cards receive a thumbs up for their sizzling shooting performance on the road Wednesday night in Charlotte. For the game, the Cards shot 48.3 % from the field (28-58), including an incredible 14-29 shooting from behind the three point line. The Cards also made a very respectable 10-14 free throws, including 5-7 from junior forward Ellis Myles.
The Cards freshman duo of Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia continue to play big roles for the Cards this season and deserve a big thumbs up for their performances against the 49ers and Billikins last week. On the road against Charlotte, Dean bombed the 49ers defense for 3-4 three point shooting and finished with 11 points in 21 minutes of action, outplaying his more experienced counterpart, 6'1 Demon Brown of Charlotte. Garcia, who scored only five points against Charlotte, played well defensively by blocking 3 shots and had a steal. The roles reversed against St. Louis as Garcia scored 13 points and drained 2-3 three's, while Dean only managed 5 points but pulled down 6 rebounds and dished out 6 assists.
The Cards deserve a big thumbs up for it's defense against two of the top point guards in the league. Against Charlotte, freshman Taquan Dean and the Cards other perimeter defenders shut down talented Demon Brown. On the night, Brown made only 2-10 shots from the field, scored a mere 5 points and handed out just one assist in 25 minutes of action. Against all league point guard Marquee Perry, Dean once again delivered a strong defensive performance with his tenacious on the ball defense. Perry, who entered the game against Louisville averaging almost 16 ppg was held to just 7 points on 2-11 shooting. Remember, Perry scored 36 points in two victories over UofL last season and Brown scored 19 in January's win over the Cards. Clearly, the Cards ability to defend opposing point guards is a huge factor to it's 10-1 start.
The Cards comeback ability gets two thumbs from ITV. As has been the case all season, the Cards have shown the ability to comeback from large deficits time and time again. Saturday against Saint Louis, the Cards trailed by 13 midway through the first half and only made 5 field goals in the first frame. Yet they never crumbled and cut the lead at halftime to two at 26-24 before delivering the knockout punch in the second half, pulling away with a 73-54 win. Already this season the Cards have comeback from double digit deficits against Seton Hall, Kentucky, and Ohio State to win. Two of those comebacks came on the road at Seton Hall and Ohio State and in both cases the Cards dominated the second half of play with their defense, shooting and depth.
Big thumbs up to UofL Head Coach Rick Pitino for his hard work and dedication with his team and on the recruiting trail. Not only has Coach Pitino turned Louisville into a contender again with a 10-1 record and a national ranking but he's always on the recruiting trail ensuring that Louisville is in with the nation's top players. After Wednesday nights game in Charlotte, Pitino went out to the Great Plains and evaluated a talented JUCO player for the Cards. This season Pitino has made tremendous efforts to see Sebastian Telfair, Chris Lofton, Arron Affalo, James Lang, Tello Pallacios and several others. With Pitino, Louisville's recruiting will continue to be among the nation's elite.
Finally, Louisville's half court defense deserves a big time thumbs up. In holding both Charlotte and Saint Louis to below 40 % shooting from the field, the Cardinals extended to seven the number of consecutive opponents it has held below that mark. Through the first 11 games this season the Cardinals half court defense has improved each game. Whereas this team struggled early in the season defending the three point shot, those concerns and weaknesses are no more. Neither the 49ers or Billikins (5-15) managed much from the three point line.
At 10-1 there's not much to like. But more offensive production out of center Marvin Stone would be nice. Stone plays great post defense but foul trouble and double teaming hurt his offensive production at Ohio State and against Charlotte. Saturday against St. Louis, Stone managed to get himself to line and converted enough to score 10 points.
Slow starts get a thumbs down. Too many times this season the Cards have gotten off to slow first half starts and Saturday against St. Louis provided the latest example. Against the Billikins, the Cards trailed by 13 and managed only five first half field goals, allowing the visitors to establish tempo and frustrate their half court offense. The Cards also started slow against Seton Hall, Kentucky, and Ohio State, forcing them to rely on a stingy half court defense to stay in the game until its depth and full court press could wear the opponent down in the second half. The Cards will be tough to handle when they put two halves together this season.
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