After last night’s defeat to Notre Dame at a place where the Cards haven’t won since Denny Crum was still their coach, here are 5 thoughts about last night’s game and the Cards moving forward…
1. Kuric Got Screwed: Kyle Kuric had a dunk on Scott Martin of the Irish last night that would have impressed T-Will. Hell, it would have impressed Dr. J. However, the dunk heard ’round the college hoops world might have been the worst thing to happen to the Cards last night. For reasons that no one has been able to explain to me logically, Kuric was assessed a tech for “taunting”. Anybody that knows or has seen Kuric play can tell you that “taunting” is the last thing he would do. All he did was look at the guy without smiling. Was he supposed to help the guy up? Would the referee suggest he smile and tell Martin “Swell try, man!”? The terrible call cost the Cards 2-points and as we already know, the game went into OT and the Cards lost. I’m not saying the game completely turned because of a singular play, but Notre Dame was given two points by an absurd whistle.
2. Jennings on the Block: I have been one of Terrence Jennings’ biggest critics this year simply because he didn’t show me that he actually cared about the things the Cards needed from him to be successful: rebounding and toughness inside. Since the Marquette game, Jennings hasn’t done a complete 180, but he’s come pretty close. It looks like he has genuinely worked on some moves with his back to the basket and is getting after it on the boards. To have any fortune in March, Pitino needs Jennings to continue to show improvement.
3. Pitino’s Late-Game coaching: I understand hindsight is 20/20, a win cures all ills and all those Kragthorpian clichés, but Louisville was running their offense beautifully in the first half. Peyton Siva was getting into the lane and finding either someone open for 3 or someone inside for a dunk and Pitino was running a motion offense full of cutting guards that was killing the Irish. However, at the end of the game (especially the last couple possessions) the Cards looked like they were doing a lot of one-on-one, standing around and not getting into the offense. As great as Pitino is, that has always bothered me about him. The team is supposed to be run-and-gun, yet at the end of the game they slow down the pace and quit running offense. It’s almost like he is too smart for his own good.
4. Sensational Siva: Many people were jumping off the Peyton Siva bandwagon this year after a couple of terrible games against Drexel and UK in losses. The Edgar Sosa comparisons were unjustly rampant. Since, Siva has been the PG that most fans expected. He rarely takes a bad shot, finds the open man, sets the pace and makes great decisions. What more can you ask for from the kid? Remember, this is almost like a freshman year for Siva, as he sat behind the infamous aforementioned Sosa last season. Siva is leading the Big East in steals and is 5th in assists. Pitino was harsh on the critics who were harsh on Siva, and rightfully so. If he minimizes his turnovers, Siva will make his nay-sayers wish they hadn’t opened their mouths.
5. Time to get Healthy: The Cards have been bitten by the injury bug worse than any team in recent memory. Come Saturday against Syracuse, the Cards will be as close to full strength as they have been since the beginning of the year. Rakeem Buckles possibly returns after nearly 2 months on the mend with a broken finger and Gorgui Dieng will be back after a bout with…who knows? (think it was a concussion). It might take the Cards a game or two to get back acclimated with the two front-court starters of they could return to the line-up without a hitch. That remains to be seen. Last night showed how valuable front-court depth can be late in games in the Big East. Jennings fouled out and the only replacement was 6-8 George Goode (no slouch, but still…). Buck and Gorgui’s return will hopefully solve that problem.
Louisville hosts Syracuse at NOON on Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center
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