By Beau Kilpatrick—
Louisville did not compete in the NCAA tournament last year due to a post-season ban. With a team that has little tournament experience, they made their presence known in Indianapolis today, defeating Jacksonville State 78-63.
The Cardinals had a slow start in the first round of the big dance, falling behind in the first five minutes of the game 10-2. U of L didn’t gain their first lead until 6:40 remaining in the first half. Once they gained the edge, they never looked back.
The 15-point victory came collectively in front of many Louisville fans that travelled to Indy for the tournament. However, many of the spectators were cheering against the Cards as they were representing other teams like Michigan and Kentucky, who are also playing in Bankers Life Fieldhouse this weekend.
Four Cardinals scored in double digits and Donovan Mitchell nearly recorded a double-double. Mitchell’s numbers do not give justice to the phenomenal contribution that he gave to his team. He finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, five assists, a block and three steals. Mitchell was the facilitator of victory for U of L.
Click here for more of today’s Stats.
Mangok Mathiang showed his dominance in the paint by leading all Louisville offense with 18 points. He added two blocks and a steal on defense. Ray Spalding assisted the Cardinal frontcourt by scoring 11 points and committing a steal. Spalding shot 100 percent today, making 4-4 from the field and 3-3 on freethrows. Louisville will need this type of consistency if they want to make it to Phoenix for the championship.
Deng Adel was clutch when it came to digging the Cards out of their early hole against the Gamecocks. He scored 16 points, making 6-7 from the field, including a pair of three pointers in the first half. He made both threes within 40 seconds of each other; the first one took the lead and the second sealed the lead that would remain with the Cards.
U of L’s veteran point guard Quentin Snider is one of the few players that have tournament experience and he commanded his teammates up and down the court, setting up plays, stealing balls, applying relentless pressure, and finding his comrades for open shots. Snider scored 16 points, had five assists and a steal, and applied magnetic defense that suffocated the opposition. Snider’s leadership was impressive. He is clearly the veteran that will lead coach Pitino’s team to victory.
The last time that Louisville won a national championship was in 2013 when they took down the Michigan Wolverines 82-76. These two teams will meet again Sunday when Louisville challenges Michigan in the second round of the 2017 tournament.
Watch the 2013 Championship game here.
Michigan is coming off of an impressive offensive showdown against Oklahoma State 92-91. Michigan made 16 three-pointers against the Cowboys and shot over 51 percent. That is an incredible percentage.
Check out the Michigan vs. Oklahoma State recap.
Louisville is one of the best defensive teams in the nation and they will need every ounce of tenacity to shut down a red hot Michigan team.
As always, Go CARDS!!! L1C4!!!