By Mychal Hunter
Maybe I am underselling Indiana but I don’t think the Hoosiers are that good. I laid the points in the Duke game and lost, even then I was not convinced. Louisville may have been a team I was overselling. It is possible that Pitino’s persona that was fueled by bathroom sex, stripper parties and sacks of money was the driving force behind the programs success and all was lost when he was given the boot.
Saturday the Hoosiers went to Louisville and actually took at lead into the locker room at halftime to my dismay. I was beginning to lose hope for this Cardinals team and what I think they are capable of. As stated on this blog before, they don’t have any bad losses, but they certainly don’t have any impressive wins either.
My beliefs were quickly restored a bit when Quentin Snider came out in the second half and I thought played very well. He snagged a couple rebounds, handed out a couple more assists and only had a single turnover. He also canned a couple of free throws late to make the outcome a forgone conclusion. He ended the evening with 13 points and 5 assists as Louisville overcame the one point halftime deficit to protect their home court and win by 9. Yet another victory for the ACC over a Big Ten opponent.
Deng Adel continued his consistent play, logging his seventh double digit scoring effort of the season. Ray Spaulding added a double double and combined with Anas Mahmoud to dominate the second half until Mahmoud fouled out after playing only 20 minutes.
Fast forward to last night, the Cardinals blitzed Bryant, 102-59 in a game that was never in doubt. Bryant hung pretty tough in the first half but were never going to survive their cold outside shooting, going 4-19.
Snider once again turned in a solid effort of 17 points and 4 rebounds, but only had 2 assists. Adel was his typcal self, adding 17 more, recording his eighth double digit scoring game, while Anas Mahmoud continues his defensive dominance, logging 3 blocks in only 18 minutes. If Mahmoud could stay on the floor he might possibly run away with defensive player of the year in the conference. The guy blocks everything, averaging 3.7 blocks and a steal in under 24 minutes a game.
I remain somewhat cynical when it comes to the Cardinals because the only game they have played on the road to this day is the ACC/B10 challenge contest against Purdue, which they lost. They will not play another true road game until 12/29 at Kentucky, a team that only gives up around 65 points per game at home this year. Louisville does get a game against Memphis at MSG this weekend, but that is hardly UK at Rupp Arena.
I continue to beat on Snider a little bit mostly due to my own high expectations, but the senior just has to be better as we get into the big boy part of the schedule. Louisville does not move the ball very well in my opinion and relies too much on their athleticism. They did manage 21 assists in the Bryant game but, eh. When they play the likes UK, Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami they will not be able to “out athlete” those teams.
The Cardinals continue to be one of the more intriguing teams in the conference for the simple fact that they have elite eight talent but are playing at a bubble team level. If Snider is able to get up around five assists per game consistently, this team is going to explode. VJ King is coming into his own but may need another year before achieving his stardom, but Ray Spaulding is a star on both ends of the floor right now. Spaulding, a 6-10 junior has the talent to play all over the floor and make shots while being a terror on the defensive end as well.
If this team can put it all together they are going to thrash some people, that Memphis game is one to watch and could be the turning point of their seasons. The Cardinals seem to have put it together over the last three halves of basketball. Was it the competition? Was it simply just playing their five best players the majority of the minutes? Has David Padgett made adjustments? I don’t know, but I’ll be watching.