CRAWFORD | Seven takeaways from Louisville's 87-52 win over Hartford
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I’m looking over the schedule, and I’d say that basketball fans around here are going to going to see quite a few games like the one we saw Tuesday night between Louisville and Hartford before conference play starts.
Hartford is the alma mater of NBA All-Star Vin Baker and former Major Leaguer Jeff Bagwell. The Hawks could’ve used both of them Tuesday night. Even then, it might not have been enough.
Hartford went 8 1/2 minutes without scoring in the second half, missing its first 11 shots during a 19-0 Louisville run that sent much of the KFC Yum! Center crowd of 18,910 home early.
What did they miss, besides an 87-52 Louisville victory?
Well, they missed a three-point explosion from Dylan Avare (2-for-2, 6 points). They missed 12 different players scoring. Look, I’m going to be honest. I’m stretching here. Hartford had about as much chance against Louisville as a guy with a flip phone at a text-message competition.
This one was a rout. OMG. LOL. What is the emoji for garbage time?
A few takeaways:
1. VIEW FROM THE OPPOSING BENCH. Hartford coach John Gallagher said he was encouraged that his team played relatively close to the Cardinals for a half.
“What’s Louisville ranked?” he asked in his news conference after the game.
“Uh, they’re not ranked,” came the answer.
“In the country?” he said. “I would say that they’re probably, in my opinion just watching them, a top 15 team in the country. I know they have eight or nine new guys. I knew Deng Adel, because I recruit Australia so much, watching him three years ago, I think he 2-3 years from now is a player of the year candidate in the ACC, just seeing his growth. . . . If he projects in this system, with Coach Pitino and really listens to him, he’s a first-round NBA pick. But he’s got to do everything coach says, but he’s a talent. But my takeaway is we played with a team that’s a top 15 team in the country for a half.”
2. LEWIS INCREASES HIS COMFORT LEVEL. Having watched Trey Lewis run the point in Puerto Rico, in the preseason and now, Tuesday night looked to be the most comfortable I’ve seen him in a Louisville uniform. He probably looks his most at home when in the game with Quentin Snider, when he can assume the shooting guard role. But Lewis was under control, made good decisions on when to pass and when to shoot, and in general showed the best balance he’s shown since arriving.
“Q and I are getting to know each other better and how to play together all the time,” Lewis said. “I get to know all these guys better every day.”
Lewis finished with 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting, five rebounds and three assists. The rebounds also were important — something that Cardinal coaches have been stressing for the guards.
3. ONUAKU POSTS A CAREER HIGH. Sophomore Chinanu Onuaku had 10 points in the game’s first five minutes, and finished with 18 on 8 of 13 shooting, along with nine rebounds.
The performance, of course, should be considered with caution. A year ago to the day he posted his previous career high, and went on to struggle offensively for most of last season.
But he has worked a great deal on his offense, and appears more confident with the ball, though he’s not really been tested in the post so far this season.
4. LEE FINDING HIS PLACE ON OFFENSE. Damion Lee came in as the No. 4 scorer in college basketball last season, but had appeared to be laboring in three previous games. On Tuesday he seemed to find his scoring opportunities more naturally in the offense, mixing perimeter jumpers with slashing to the basket and scoring or getting to the line.
He finished with 18 points on 5 of 11 shooting, though he was still just 2 of 7 from three-point range.
5. CARDINAL DEFENSE EARNS PRAISE. Hartford was averaging nine three-pointers a game coming in but went just 3 for 17 against Louisville. The Cardinals blocked only three shots, but bothered the shorter Hawks with their length.
“I was worried about them having 8 or 9 blocks in the game,” Gallagher said. “They only had three, which is a low number for them, because I think their defensive philosophy is, I don’t know if they talk about it publicly, is to funnel the ball to the big guy in the middle. I don’t know if they say that, but they do it.”
It is a different kind of defense this season, and one Louisville appears still to be adjusting to. If the primary defender can dog his man into the lane, it creates opportunities for the bigs to slide over and block shots as secondary defenders. They haven’t quite mastered that yet, but it’s a definite defensive possibility moving forward.
6. NO PITINO. The head coach didn’t talk at the post-game news conference, instead sending assistant coach Ralph Willard, who had the scout on the game. Willard said after giving up too much dribble penetration in the first half, the Cards managed to stop it in the second. He said the team continues to show signs of progress.
"Just in terms of making plays with each other, for one thing," Willard said. "Talking to each other after plays. Whether plays are a good result or a bad result, they are talking to each other and discussing it. They're saying, 'Hey, I'll get you next time on the back-door. You had a backdoor opportunity there, I'll get it to you.' In terms of the post-up, in terms of the big guys, 'Hey I missed you that time, I'll get you next time you run the floor. I'll get it to you in the lane.' All that stuff adds to an understanding of how to play together."
7. NEXT UP. The Cardinals will face a North Florida team that has made 17 three-pointers in each of its first two games. After a good night of defending outside the arc, the Cards will need more of the same on Saturday at noon in the KFC Yum! Center.
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