Saturday, Kenny Payne and the Louisville Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to the Florida State Seminoles. Though the Cardinals added another “L” in the loss column, fans found themselves engaged as the Cardinals came back from nearly twenty points down.
Here are a few winners and one loser from afternoon ACC matchup.
Until the eleven-minute mark of the second half, the most entertaining aspect of Saturday’s game was Jay Williams’ commentary. Williams voiced what’s been on every Louisville fan’s mind this season. The former Duke All-American and the NBA analyst encouraged Louisville fans by reinforcing that Kenny Payne was doing the rebuild the right way. Traditionally, Jay Williams has spared no love for the Cards, but Saturday, Florida State fans took to social media to highlight William’s bias for Louisville.
He did, however, verbalize Louisville’s lack of leadership and inability to play defense. The ESPN Radio Host said it best when he stated,
"“I would love to see Louisville run a set. In the last five or six possessions, they are just running things off of dribble drive. Their offense doesn’t have a lot of rhythm.”"
It’s not often an analyst steals the spotlight.
A player rarely finishes a game with three turnovers and is seen in a positive light, but Withers is playing with something fans have been waiting to see for three years–confidence. Jae’Lyn Withers is shooting lights out right now as he was 4-6 from three-point range Saturday, including several NBA range threes.
The Charlotte, North Carolina product has always been hesitant on offense, but during Louisville’s last two contests, Withers has been fearless in shooting when given an open look.
Unfortunately, his offensive resurrection hasn’t translated to the defensive side of the court. Often Withers over-commits and is slow to get back into position, making him a defensive liability when in the zone.
Payne may have done enough to solidify his return in 2023-2024. Though Louisville lost, KP made adjustments Saturday, and they worked. At one point, the Cards were down twenty points, and the Seminoles were scoring with little effort.
Payne subbed in Hercy Miller, countering Florida State’s full-court press. Hercy Miller finished the game with a modest stat line but logged his most playing time since November. The Cardinals were able to protect the ball and contest shots.
El Ellis should be the Cardinal’s leader, but Saturday, he could have been just as well playing street ball. When Darin Green Jr. missed the second of two free throws, down by three, and with 15 seconds left, Ellis would drive and shoot an out-of-control shot surrounded by three defenders. The drive prompted play-by-play commentator Doug Sherman to question if Ellis knew the score. He said,
"“I don’t think he knew they were down by three.”Making matters worse, Jay Williams called out the junior, questioning Louisville’s team captains."
The Louisville Cardinals have eight games remaining, four of which are against the top twenty-five teams. Saturday may have been Louisville’s last opportunity to add an easy win to their record.