Pregame: U of L-West Virginia set to tip off in Freedom Hall. Ellis Myles is back on the U of L bench, and Bob Huggins is back on the visitors’ sideline in Freedom Hall. I’ll be updating this regularly, so keep refreshing.
U of L 9, WVU 7, 15:57: The Cards look sharp offensively to open, largely because of the play of Terrence Williams. U of L has four baskets, three off assists from Williams, including a nice back-door layup by Jerry Smith and a post basket by Juan Palacios. West Virginia is showing a lot of patience on the offensive end. They lead the Big East in scoring at 83 points a game, but don’t look like they’re in too big a hurry to make this a shootout. Early trend: U of L has a 4-1 edge in rebounding (Palacios has three of those).
U of L 13, WVU 12, 11:24: U of L played a better segment defensively after the first television timeout, but now isn’t getting much on offense. Derrick Caracter had a hard-luck miss, then a turnover and came out in favor of David Padgett. The Cards got bad shots from Earl Clark and Terrence Williams on back-to-back possessions, before Clark backed a defender in and hit a difficult turnaround in the post while being fouled to give the Cards their 1-point margin at the second TV timeout. Still no real emerging pattern in this game, except that U of L should be able to score at will inside, and is up 9-4 in rebounds.
U of L 20, WVU 15, 7:42: A milestone in that segment — Will Scott waded in and got a nice rebound in traffic. He then threw away the outlet pass, but he should be forgiven. It might’ve been the first chance to throw an outlet pass that he’s had. Later, Earl Clark had a chance for a poster-type dunk on WVU big man Jamie Smalligan, but laid it up instead with Smalligan setting up to try and take the charge, and the ball bounced out. Speaking of Smalligan, he already has his scoring average — 3 points. Somebody better get to work down low. The Cardinal press has started to yield some returns, a Williams steal led to a Jerry Smith dunk for U of L’s last points. Trend: U of L leads 5-0 in fast-break points.
New headline style: The big development in the last few minutes is that I’m tired of leading these updates with the score and headline. It’s boring. So, boom, it’s gone. That’s how we roll in the Internet age. As for the game, you get the feeling U of L has been on the verge of making a run, but just can’t get quite that one-two punch to make it happen. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them miss so many point-blank shots, but they’re dominating the offensive glass, and that’s enabled them to build a lead. Two minutes left to half. U of L 29, WVU 24, 2:00 left.
Halftime thoughts: U of L leads 32-24 after closing out the half on a 10-2 run. West Virginia turned it over six times in the final five minutes, while U of L’s last seven points of the half came on second-chance baskets. Other highlights:
- There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching Edgar Sosa with the ball and time running down. U of L’s Terrence Williams missed a three with the shot clock running down at the end of the half, and Sosa found himself with the ball in his hands and 17.5 seconds left. Instead of playing for one shot, he immediately launched a three of his own, and WVU got the last shot — which it could not convert.
- Williams has been more vocal in this half than I’ve seen him in a while — and not in a bad way. He’s been active during free throws of sorting guys out and has several times slowed it down in the half-court to get people where they need to be. Williams hasn’t scored in the half, but has four assists without a turnover, two blocks, two steals and two rebounds.
- This has been one of U of L’s better halves. It could’ve been even stronger had they converted on more inside scoring chances, but they’re looking in there and getting good looks from inside and out. The Cards rank in the top 20 nationally in field goal percentage defense, and are holding WVU to 37 percent shooting, but that’s after a hot start by the Mountaineers. WVU scored only 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
- U of L has a 22-20 rebounding edge, but it sure seems like they outrebounded WVU by more. The Cards hold an 11-2 edge in second-chance points, a 5-0 edge in fast-break points, a 16-10 edge in the paint and a 19-2 edge off the bench.
- Earl Clark leads the Cards in scoring with 9 points and in rebounds with six — though a couple of those were off his own misses. And all of a sudden, that power forward spot puts a lot of pressure on opponents — Clark and Palacios have combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
- Have to give credit to the U of L defense, which is holding the Big East’s top scoring team in check.
That’s it for the first-half blogging. I’ll have a couple of second-half updates, but not as many as in the first, because I’ll have to start figuring out what the column will say.