Luke Hancock made all three of his three-point shots, scoring 13 as Louisville defeated Seton Hall.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It hasn't been easy for Luke Hancock at the University of Louisville this season. And I'm not only talking about the serious shoulder injury he had repaired last spring.
There is no joy in a total shoulder dislocation. Some baseball players are never the same after that injury. Hancock isn't throwing a 97 mph fastball. But he's a right-handed shooter and dribbler who needed time to trust his shoulder again. The trust was coming.
Then Hancock locked arms with teammate Gorgui Dieng in practice Thursday. A fresh round of pain raged through his shoulder. The tearing of scar tissue likely stirred the discomfort. He was back in Fred Hina's training room.
Hancock needed ice, Aleve and extra warm-up time before he could play 24 efficient minutes in Louisville's 79-61 victory over Seton Hall Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
"You have to see what he goes through just to be ready for game day," U of L coach Rick Pitino said.
Hancock played as splendidly as he has played all season. He made all four of his shots, including three from the three-point line. He added a couple of free throws for 13 points, his second-best total in Big East play. He had three assists without throwing the basketball away.
Was the perfect three-point shooting the highlight of his day?
"How many did (Seton Hall forward) Fuquan Edwin have?" Hancock asked.
"He's under his average (17) so I'll take that," he said.
A wink from Hancock. He knows the way to Pitino's best side.
"It's probably an answer for the media but I'm happy about that," Hancock said. "He's a great player, great shooter. To hold him under his average helps our team win."
That brings me to the second part of why this has been a challenging season for Luke Hancock. At his best, Hancock is a glue guy. Somebody who makes a three or a sharp pass or a solid stop or a block out to help his team win.
He is not a guy who is going to get Louisville 20 points or create his own shot late in the shot clock or overwhelm anybody with acrobatic plays.
Luke Hancock is not what Rick Pitino said he was – the best player on the team – when Hancock was sitting out last season after transferring from George Mason University.
Hancock is not the guy that opposing coaches have to build their defenses around when they play Louisville.
That guy is Russ Smith, who backed off his jump shot, drove and got to the free throw line 10 times, making all 10 while scoring 19 against Seton Hall. That guy is Gorgui Dieng, especially when he is making his mid-range jumper on a 23-point, 8-rebound, 3-block, 2-steal afternoon.
Hancock is a fill-in-the-gaps guy – and capable of being an extremely valuable one as he showed against the Pirates. The pre-season hype around Hancock has subsided. Now he can simply play without listening to home fans groan whenever he misses a three-point shot.
"There's no point to the crowd moaning like that," Siva said. "Luke was just getting off a shoulder injury. He was just coming into his own. Now he's getting healthy."
"It's been a little up and down," Hancock said. "I kind of knew it was going to be like this with my shoulder. I haven't felt like myself in awhile but I'm starting to feel better."
The truth is that Hancock improved his three-point shooting percentage for the season to nearly 34 percent by making all of his three-point attempts Saturday. That doesn't make him a Big East leader, but it's a long way from 9 for 41 (22 percent). Those were Hancock's numbers after Louisville first eight games. Hancock has already made more three-point shots at U of L (38) than he made in two seasons (34) at George Mason.
He has made at least one three-point shot in eight straight games – and only turned the ball over six times in 209 minutes during that period. That is Hancock's game, taking care of the basketball, keeping the offense flowing, defending, scrambling and making a couple of threes per game. He can be a force doing that.
"I'm definitely feeling better," Hancock said. "But this is what I wanted, to be on a great team with great players. This is why I made the move. I asked for it and I'm happy to be here."