By Beau Kilpatrick—
The No. 4 Louisville Cardinals lost for the second time this year against their ACC nemesis, the No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers. The Cards fell 55-71, extending their streak of losing to UVA.
Louisville came into this game as a depleted team. Starting point guard Quentin Snider is still out with a hip flexor injury. He could return as early as next week. His back up, senior transfer Tony Hicks will remain out of the lineup with a spiral fracture in his hand.
After the win at Boston College on Saturday, Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel missed curfew. Pitino said that he instructed his team to get some rest because they were having an early practice and had to travel to Virginia. It was reported that Mathiang and Adel missed curfew by four hours.
Coach Pitino suspended Mathiang and Adel from travelling with the team to Virginia. In the midst of continuous allegations, Pitino did the right thing. Mathiang has been stripped of his status as team captain. Donovan Mitchell received the honor of captain that he will carry for the rest of the year.
Louisville performed pretty well in the first half against Virginia and went into halftime with a two-point lead. However, the second half belonged to the Cavaliers. Louisville shot horribly in the second half. From halftime until the ten-minute mark, the Cards only made 2-12 from the field.
Video highlights: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18634480
The suspension of Deng Adel allowed for extended play by V.J. King and the freshman shined with a spectacular performance. King led all scorers with 24 points, three rebounds and a steal. The freshman McDonald’s All-American has progressively gotten better every week. King could remain the starter after a game like this and Adel could be coming off the bench in the future.
Donovan Mitchell has been doing all he can to hold this team together through injuries of his teammates. However, he was stretched a little too thin during the UVA loss. Mitchell scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds; committed four steals, and added three assists. He did the best he could while missing four weapons in the Cardinals’ arsenal.
However, it was the suspension of Mangok Mathiang that hurt Louisville more than anything else. Mathiang has been averaging around 12 points and nearly ten rebounds per game, while contributing valuable minutes with minimal fouling. In his absence, the collected efforts of the big men—Anas Mahmoud, Ray Spalding, and Jaylen Johnson—could only put up nine points with six rebounds. Louisville lost this game in the paint.
Donovan Mitchell and V.J. King did a fantastic job. They carried the team as best as they could. Even though their efforts came up short, Pitino should be proud of these two, as should all of the fans. The selfishness of Mathiang and Adel may have cost the Cardinals this game, as it was the lack of interior presence that was exposed and exploited.
Hopefully, this situation of suspensions sends a clear message to the team that Pitino will not tolerate anything but the best from his players.
The No. 4 Cardinals will host the Miami Hurricanes at the KFC YUM! Center on February 11. The game will be broadcasted this Saturday afternoon on ESPN 2 at 2 p.m.
As always, GO CARDS!!! #L1C4!!!