By Beau Kilpatrick—
The No. 7 Louisville Cardinals completed the season sweep of Syracuse today. They beat the Orangemen on Valentine’s Day in overtime, 76-72. The Cards didn’t need overtime today to take down the ’Cuse 88-68.
Coach Rick Pitino is known for being crafty. He is a defensive-minded coach and works his players harder than anyone else in the game. After the 74-63 loss to North Carolina a few days ago, Pitino decided to make some changes to his starting lineup… and it worked.
Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell started as usual, but V.J. King, Anas Mahmoud, and Ray Spalding started instead of the usual frontcourt. Mathiang, Johnson, and Adel came off the bench in an unusual lineup for Pitino.
Ray Spalding had the best game of all the Cardinals, setting a new career record. Spalding recorded a double-double, 11 rebounds and with 18 points, shooting 88 percent from the field. He also contributed two steals and a block. Spalding went into beast mode and took full advantage of his opportunity as a starter. He was dunking, rebounding, alley-ooping, and just punishing opponents in the paint.
Spalding muscles the alley-oop in: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18772786
Anas Mahmoud played a very solid game, helping his team tremendously. He shot 80 percent for eight points. He also tallied nine rebounds, four steals and a block. Mahmoud plays at his best when the pressure is dialed in on his performance.
Freshman forward V.J. King started in place of Deng Adel and only scored a single point. However, that was enough for Pitino’s message to reach Adel. Adel scored 17 points off the bench. Adel was a key figure in the second half, exposing the cracks in Syracuse’s defense. He exposed the weakness in their transition defense 4-5 plays in a row and drawing fouls from defenders.
Donovan Mitchell was nothing short of spectacular today. Mitchell did what he does best and that is electrifying the crowd at the KFC Yum! Center. Mitchell dropped 25 points on the Orange, including an impressive six three-pointers. He shot 60 percent from beyond the three-point line and made 9-16 from the field. Mitchell made eight points in less than a minute and a half nearing the end of the game. He dropped two three-pointers with less than three minutes remaining. Then, he threw down an incredible one-handed tomahawk alley-oop from Snider.
Mitchell’s spectacular alley-oop: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18773566
If the Cardinals were trying to make a statement today in response to losing to UNC, I think they proved their point. They are a force to be reckoned with come tournament time. Louisville missed the post-season last year due to self-imposed punishment for rule violations. They look hungry for the post-season and there are not too many teams in the nation that will welcome the challenge of having to face these ferocious Cardinals.
Louisville’s next challenge will be a road game against the Deacon Demons of Wake Forest University. The game will be aired on Fox Sports Network (TWC/Spectrum channel 521) at 9 p.m.
Louisville only has two games remaining in the regular season. They will finish with No. 21 Notre Dame at the Yum! Center on March 4. The Cards are fighting for a double-round bye in the ACC tournament, which will run from March 8-11.
As always, GO CARDS!!! #L1C4!!!