Nevermind the freezing temperatures outside. If you get on social media, the world seems to be ending and it has nothing to do with weather. It has everything to do with Louisville losing their second basketball game in a row. This game had plenty of storylines if you are a Cards fan, from a suspended point guard to a senior not exactly stuffing the stat sheet. Here are just some of my quick hitting thoughts after the 69-59 loss at Syracuse. I won’t try to paint a National Championship picture, but I also won’t act like we should give up the sport for good after this season. This will just be honest opinions from yours truly, a fellow fan of the Cards.
Chris Jones did it to himself
If anyone is upset because we didn’t have anyone make big shots down the stretch or someone thinks our on-ball defense wasn’t superb, they probably uttered the phrase “Chris Jones would have done…” fill in the blank. Well, Chris Jones couldn’t do those things tonight. He could not because he wasn’t there to help out his team. And that is no one’s fault but Jones’ himself. I have heard what it is that he did this time, although I just can’t put it out there because it isn’t my place to do so. But anyways, Jones brought this suspension on himself. He certainly doesn’t need people defending him right now. Don’t you want the players to have rules to abide by? If they break them, there must be consequences. I am not one that wished we had him for this game. I thought it was a great opportunity for Quentin Snider to get experience and learn and grow from it. Speaking of Snider…
Quentin Snider was THE bright spot
Given the circumstances, I thought Quentin Snider played a very solid game. The starting point guard gets suspended and all of the sudden, you are expected to take the reigns on the road against a conference opponent. Last season, Snider played games against teams like Atherton High School and Kentucky Country Day. On Wednesday night, he was the starting point guard for the Louisville Cardinals taking on Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. That is a pretty big leap, right?
This season, Snider hadn’t played more than 26 minutes in a game, and that was against Long Beach State, when Chris Jones was benched to start and only played 9 minutes. Hmm, a pattern here (Snider did not start that game). Against Syracuse, Quentin played 38 minutes. He scored 13 points on 5-13 shooting and was 3-9 from the three point line. A few of those shots were late in the game when the Cards needed someone to at least get a shot up. Other than that, he didn’t force the issue. He looked to get the ball to his teammates on a consistent basis. He also had 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. Syracuse won’t force a lot of turnovers playing a zone, but having 0 is still pretty good. I was impressed with how the hometown freshman played and I look forward to seeing him improve.
Shaqquan Aaron is “not a Louisville man”
One of the biggest questions of the night was “Why isn’t Shaqquan Aaron getting any playing time?” I have learned to not question coaches. Everyone has their own methods. Especially someone like Coach Pitino. I am fairly confident that he knows what he is doing with his team, so I will let him be. Of course I was curious why Aaron didn’t see the floor at all, but I also knew there must have been a reason.
Pitino talked about this after the game, and made a pretty big statement when he said that “He just doesn’t have a Louisville attitude. He’s not a Louisville man in terms of the way we practice, the way we go about it. If he doesn’t (get there), he’ll be at another school. That’s the way it will be. He’s never going to step on the court until he gets that attitude.” I must say my eyes got big when I read that the first time. We know that freshmen struggle to adjust to playing for Pitino. Hopefully Shaqquan can figure things out and get back on track. He could be a very big key for the Cards next season. Heck, he could be this season for all we know.
Wayne Blackshear laid an egg
I won’t harp on this too much. Wayne just had a bad, bad game. In 19 minutes of action, he fouled out and had 2 turnovers. That is literally it. He shot 0-2 and had 0 points, 0 rebound, 0 assists, 0 steals, and 0 blocks. I really can’t tell you if he played good defense or did anything else that could have contributed in a positive manner. But Wayne just is what he is, and people have a hard time accepting that. He will give you games of 15-20 points, and turn around and score 5 the next game. He isn’t the superstar that people expected, but he is a decent role player. But this game was just bad all around.
Chinanu Onuaku: ATTACK THAT RIM
For the most part, I was happy with how Chinanu Onuaku played. He has to continue to learn and work hard and get better. His numbers were not bad at all. He had 8 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 31 minutes. He is probably exhausted by the way. Those are the positives.
The other two plays that stick out to me were both in the second half. I can’t remember when this first one happened exactly. But Louisville shot a 3 after running a lot of time off the shot clock, probably not by design. Onuaku went up and got the offensive rebound and he was probably 3 feet from the basket. He never looked to score once. He threw the ball back out to a guard like it was a hot potato.
The other play was near the end when he was playing at the free throw line on offense. He got the ball, and that is usually when the zone defense is broken down, when the ball is in the middle. You have many options: take the shot, dump it down to the block, find an open shooter, attack the rim. None of those options are to twirl around in circles looking for someone, anyone to throw that ball to. He must have spun around three times. In that time, I would much rather see him drive in and try to dunk on somebody. That would have at least been aggressive. Or take one dribble in, the bottom defenders take a step to you, and then you hit Trez with the pass. Either of those would have been better than the Onuaku Twirl to me. If he isn’t going to do anything with the ball in that spot, someone else has to be at the free throw line and Onuaku needs to stay on the block.
*I would like to see more of the big Egyptian, Anas Mahmoud. In only 6 minutes, he had 4 points on 2-2 shooting and 1 rebound. Maybe in 20 minutes he would have 10 points and 5 or 6 rebounds? Maybe a couple of blocks?
*Anton Gill has been a big disappointment so far. Coming into this season, some people said he would breakout and get major minutes and be a big contributor. I think that was wishful thinking along with getting a little too hyped over an open gym highlight reel. He played 7 minutes and had 1 block. Other than that, he had Blackshear’s stats, but just 1 foul. He is now averaging 2.6 points in 10 minutes per game.
*Louisville shot just 7-14 from the free throw line. Terry Rozier missed the front end of a big 1 and 1 in the last couple of minutes of the game. Syracuse came down and scored after that and pretty much put the game away. Other than his one miss, Montrezl was 3-9, so there you go.
This team needs us more than ever now
You may read this and think that it is odd because I just talked bad about some of our players. That isn’t really true. Just gave my opinion on how they can be better and what is expected from the fans. They are still Louisville Cardinals and I support them, most of them. That is my team.
If there was ever a time that this team needed fan support, it is right now. You can’t just be there when times are good and the team is winning. We need to be there to rally around our troops and pick them up, give them that lift. This team obviously lacks the chemistry of our National Championship team with Russ, Peyton, Gorgui, and Luke. But they can’t be feeling like their own fans are against them too.
Now is the time to show support. Now is the time to pack the Yum! Center on Saturday when Miami comes to town and be loud and cheer louder than usual when the guys run out. They are college kids. Things like crowd energy and enthusiasm definitely have an impact on them. If you are at the game, you are apart of that. So why not take it into your own hands and show support for this team?
There have been somewhat “unlikeable” teams in the past, but I don’t see this as one of them. They don’t have the hearts of the fans just yet like that Championship team, but maybe that time is coming. Don’t turn your backs on these guys. There is still a long way to go. We lost 3 in a row the year we won the National Championship. We lost on Senior Night to a bad South Florida team (is there any other kind of USF team?) on Kyle Kuric’s Senior Night and then ended up in the Final Four.
There is a lot of time left. Anything can happen. Let’s rally behind these guys.