By Beau Kilpatrick—
Donovan Mitchell helped to bring the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals into overtime against Syracuse before fouling out of the game with 1:15 remaining in regulation. The Cards battled through overtime and proved victorious, winning 76-72 in Syracuse.
The Cards were in for a fight when they entered the Carrier Dome of Syracuse. The Orangemen have been an enigma this season. They have beaten great teams like Florida State and Virginia but have lost to St. John’s and Boston College. They have had a rollercoaster of a season so far but Louisville knew this was going to be a tough matchup.
Louisville’s defense was suffocating. Syracuse did not score their first points until four and a half minutes into the contest. The Cards totaled 46 rebounds, 10 steals and four blocks. Coach Pitino is a defense-first coach and his unique matchup-zone defense was on full display in the dome.
Donovan Mitchell led his team with 16 points, three steals, four rebounds and three assists. Mitchell’s electric potential was displayed in New York with his amazing play on the ball. He brought the house down with an incredible one-handed ally-oop that even left the Syracuse bench in awe. In fact, Mitchell scored 11 of Louisville’s last 15 points in regulation before fouling out of the game with 1:15 remaining.
Check out the replay of Mitchell’s dunk: https://www.facebook.com/GoCards/videos/10155222488022223/
I was the young guard Ryan McMahon that shined during overtime when he came in to replace Mitchell. McMahon scored all seven of his points during overtime.
The big men in the frontcourt were very impressive compared to their recent performances, especially Anas Mahmoud. Mahmoud has struggled lately and Pitino even said that he had not been looking good in practice. Mahmoud scored 12 points, blocked three shots, grabbed eight rebounds and was credited with a steal. His playing minutes increased drastically during this game with 24 minutes.
Jaylen Johnson played valuable minutes at Syracuse as well. His stats may not show the extent of his contributions but Johnson provided Louisville with the toughness needed in the paint to challenge the Orangemen. Johnson scored 10 points, grabbed seven boards and had a steal.
Louisville did a great job of keeping their focus during this contested road game. They just came off of a hard-fought game against Miami two days ago and had little time for rest and preparation. Pitino said that this schedule is great practice for the NCAA tournament where teams have to play two games in three days.
Louisville is currently predicted to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament but we have a few more weeks before the official tournament seeds are set in stone. The Cards have five more games remaining in the regular season. They will host Virginia Tech next.
The No. 8 Louisville Cardinals are tied for second in the ACC with Florida State University. Both teams are one game behind the conference leader, the University of North Carolina.
Full rankings: http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/rankings
Louisville has a great chance to climb to the top of the ACC if they persist in their gritty street-style of playing ball. Their top-ten defense, smooth offense, and quality play of their frontcourt and bench will surely carry them to more victories.
Louisville will host Virginia Tech at the KFC YUM! Center Saturday afternoon, February 18. The game will broadcasted at 1 p.m. on local station WAVE3 (TWC/Spectrum channel 6).
Preview VT vs. UL: http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/game?gameId=400915449
Don’t forget that U of L baseball will open their season this weekend as well!
As always, GO CARDS!!! #L1C4!!!