By Beau Kilpatrick—
Eastern Kentucky University 56 vs. No. 11 Louisville Cardinals 87.
The No. 11 Louisville Cardinals hosted the Eastern Kentucky Colonels for an in-state competition.
The Cardinals started off slow and did not look very impressive on the offensive side of the ball. However, their defense suffocated the Colonels for the entire game.
EKU led the Cards in the YUM! Center for the opening ten minutes of the first half. Louisville finally took the lead 16-14 at that time. Coach Pitino’s squad began to smooth out the wrinkles that hindered their shooting ability and finished the half with decent numbers. The halftime score was EKU 16-36 UL.
The Cardinal defense was nothing short of amazing. They finished with 14 blocks, seven steals, and 47 rebounds. The frontcourt “big-men” have been dominating the paint all season and seem to get better each week. Mangok Mathiang led the team with 13 rebounds. Anas Mahmoud blocked five shots and Ray Spalding blocked four more. Mahmoud and Spalding also led the team with two steals apiece. Jaylen Johnson was the only “big” to score into double-digits with ten points, including, going 6/6 on his free throws.
One of the biggest questions about this year’s squad is the play at the guard positions. The Louisville Centers and Forwards have been very impressive but the guards have been sloppy and have struggled to produce constantly on offense. Today’s game gave fans hope of what’s to come for the rest of the season.
While the frontcourt did what they do best—dominating the paint and playing ferocious defense—it was the guards that led all offensive categories.
Donavon Mitchell led all scorers with 15 points. Quentin Snider followed with 13 points and six assists. Tony Hicks contributed ten points. Hicks shot 50 percent from the floor, and was two for three from three-point land. The Cardinals finished the game shooting just over 48 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from the three-point line.
This game proved that this year’s team finally understands the game plan that Pitino is attempting to implement. They showed the ability to recover, to stretch the floor with amazing play from the forward position, and the ability of the guards to score big and allow the frontcourt to command the defense.
This improvement is coming just in time for the biggest regular-season game of the year. The No. 11 Louisville Cardinals will host their greatest rival from down the road, the No. 6 University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Louisville has trouble (like many other schools) taking on the Wildcats, and this year will probably offer a multitude of challenges for the Cards. U of L has not beaten the Cats since 2012. But nothing is impossible; just look back at the Governor’s Cup results on the gridiron.
This year’s matchup will be held at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN on Wednesday, December 21, at 7 p.m.