The Hartford Hawks knew they were no match for the Louisville Cardinal's height, and the Cardinals let it be known straight from the beginning. Going in for the tip was JR Lynch, the 5-10 guard, deferring the ball to set up defensively. The overall height issue became a major factor in their loss, but all in all, that's not what mattered most.
Deep down, I think every Hawk fan knew that there wasn't much of a chance of Hartford beating Louisville. Rick Pitino's biggest worry was Hartford forward, John Carroll. Coming in averaging 14.5 points a game and being the prominent big man on the inside, they assumed he was going to be the one causing all the trouble. Unfortunately Carroll was a non-factor in the game, grabbing his first foul within the first 28 seconds of the game. He fouled out with 13:06 left in the second half with one rebound and three missed shots.
Stepping up to the plate was Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas. He was slated to be the "best" player on the team and definitely showed it. In the first half he managed to grab himself two dunks and 15 points in 18 minutes. He was one of the two players to be able to connect from beyond the arc, scoring two of the three 3-pointers that were made. He made himself a problem on both sides of the court, scoring, rebounding and drawing fouls. His total 20 points made him the only Hawk to reach double digits and now sits as his career high.
One thing's for sure, everyone in the Yum! Arena knows who Pancake Thomas is.
But let's not forget the rest of the team. Another player stood out to me was Lynch. Being the shortest guy on the team can be tough. Especially when going up against a team with multiple players over 7-feet tall and a few who land a bit shy. But he was getting in there, trying to guard off guys a foot taller than him. He poked through as a scrappy young guy who has a lot of heart. He scored the final four points for the Hawks.
While this loss might sting, the Hawks don't have the time to think about it. Their next game is Thursday against St. Peter's.