The lighting was about the only thing not firing on all cylinders for the Cardinals Friday night. After a 15 minute delay for a lighting malfunction, Louisville (3-0) raced out to a 22-2 lead at the beginning of it’s tilt with the Cornell (0-4) and never hit the brakes. The lights came on quickly for Louisville and blinded the Big Red.
“We watched these guys and prepared very hard and it showed tonight,” Pitino noted. “I don’t sleep during basketball season because I just worry about the emotional state of the team. But so far, these guys haven’t let me down.”
There would certainly be no let down tonight.
There was no waiting for the ‘boom’; just constant explosions. A defense that held Cornell scoreless for nearly seven minutes, forcing 26 turnovers and suffocated the Big Red like a boa constrictor. The scoring came from various directions; Russ Smith got off to a hot start and finished with 10 points, Montrezl Harrell chipped in 15 rebounds along the way. Louisville overcame their biggest Achilles heel and hit the glass hard; winning the battle 40 to 26. It was a game that Montrezl Harrell was banking in 30 footers. That type of game.
It was precisely how Head Coach Rick Pitino drew it up. A dream game, if Rick Pitino actually slept. Anyways, It was also a game that Junior Forward Wayne Blackshear had been waiting for. Blackshear sits on the cusp of determining his future: A guy that never really made it or A guy that could have a fruitful career in the NBA. Tonight he appeared to be the latter.
“Lights out. Every time it left his hands it really looked great. That’s Wayne [Blackshear]. He can shoot the ball great,” Luke Hancock who finished with 14 points after the game noted. “He’s a great shooter. He has great form. He holds the ball long enough and it always looks good.”
Despite getting off to a rocky start in Louisville’s season opener against College of Charleston, Blackshear denied that his confidence ever waned. Blackshear’s confidence surely grew tonight. It had to and in a large way. Why? A career high point showing of 20 points in 18 minutes. He had one of the best shooting nights of his career. He only missed one field goal and knocked down another career high – 4 three pointers. A game like that would have even Russ Smith with gleaming confidence.
“My confidence just keeps growing right now,” Blackshear explained. “Ever since the Summer, I’ve been confident in myself and confident in my game. I knew what I was supposed to be doing.”
We always knew that Blackshear was capable of this. A McDonald’s All American straight out of High School. The Junior from the ‘Windy City’ arrived in Louisville with high expectations. He’s had his moments, but has failed to delivered on a constant basis. Tonight was one of those moments, perhaps they continue.
“Once I knew I was in the groove, it was in the back of my head,” Blackshear explained. “I was like ‘Yeah, I know I’m hot right now’. I mean it was fun. My teammates put me in the right position to succeed though, so I gotta give it up to them.”
Coupling these performances over the course of multiple games is what the challenge will now be for Blackshear. Remember, he’s had these moments before. Last season he dropped 19 points against Rutgers and would go quiet for a month. Consistency is what can change his role at Louisville, consistency is what can take the Louisville Basketball team to a new level. How is that achieved?
“I just gotta stay focused,” Blackshear said. “I can’t lose sight of anything. I gotta keep continuing to learn. Stay with what has happened in practice and continued to go from there.”
While Wayne Blackshear may have been shooting lights out, there was one missing piece. You’ll find it six paces to the right on a stat sheet – it was a 0 in the rebound category. For a Louisville team that has been out-rebounded in two of their three games, it’s something that certainly won’t go unnoticed by Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino.
“Wayne [Blackshear] is shooting the ball with great confidence. But he’s just got to rebound better,” Pitino noted. “He’s a great rebounder. He’s just got to be able to do it in games. He was blanked tonight from there.”
Blackshear – one of the few Cardinal players not getting in on the 49 Louisville rebounds- would agree with his coaches assertions.
“That’s just something that I’ve got to be more consistent of,” He said. “I’ve just got to get in there and rebound a lot more. With my size, I should be getting 4 to 5 a game.”
But Rick Pitino will live with this.
In a team full of dynamic scorers, Blackshear has once again shown that he can add to that mix. If this consistency can continue and Wayne Blackshear has a proverbial ‘basketball renaissance’ midway through his career at Louisville, watch out. is it fools gold? Who knows. It has been before. As the owe saying goes ‘Fool me once, Fool me twice’. I won’t raise my expectations because I won’t be fooled again.
But, if it continues…
If it continues, I will say this: You won’t stop this team. By you I mean College Basketball. Only time will tell though. Was tonight a pleasant surprise or a glimpse into the future?
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