Mitchell and Mahmoud ‘X-factors’ for Cards

By on February 2, 2016

By Dalton Ray–

After Louisville’s biggest win of the season against second-ranked North Carolina on Monday, two things are apparent. One: Louisville can make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Two: Donovan Mitchell and Anas Mahmoud are the team’s biggest difference makers. The two have the ability to contribute offensively and defensively, making them valuable.

For Louisville to continue winning this year the top three players are obvious: Damion Lee, Chinanu Onuaku and either Quentin Snider or Trey Lewis. The four spot is the lone question mark in the starting five but depth can make up for it.

Depending on who gets the start at the four spot, freshman guard Mitchell or sophomore front court player Mahmoud are first off the bench. The combo could be some of the leaders on next year’s team but this year they can play deciding roles. They can make the difference from this team being a team that makes a one weekend stand in March or a Final Four run in April.

The two players don’t need to score in double figures for this team to win but do need to add solid contributions off the bench. The hallmark of every great team is having a great bench that can weather the storm when starters are in a slump or not playing.

Against UNC, the duo combined for 14 points and nine rebounds in 35 total minutes played. Limited by foul trouble, Mitchell played nine minutes in the first half but had a pair of near dunks. Those two attempts put him at the free-throw line and he added a three-pointer. Mahmoud had three blocks and scored in key possessions when the Cardinals needed some life.

In the back court, the first person off the bench is Mitchell. In the front court, Mahmoud or Ray Spalding are the first off the bench. Mahmoud can play both the four and five which makes him versatile. Both players started games this season.

After the game, coach Rick Pitino would call Mitchell a “6-foot-2 Terrence Williams.” The former high flying Cardinal was a stand out athlete. Mitchell and Williams share many similarities. Mitchell says he doesn’t feel a need to come off the bench and provide scoring, instead he wants to contribute.

“In some games we need guys to come in and do different things,” Mitchell said. “We need guys to make a spark in different categories and every time I come in I just play my role.”

Playing his role is exactly what Mitchell does. The freshman defends, grabs one-handed rebounds and isn’t afraid to take his chances on offense. Mahmoud plays a parallel position in the front court. He gives credit on his recent confidence to the Georgia Tech game.

“After the GT game I got a lot more confidence,” Mahmoud said. “The coaches have been working with me and they tell me, ‘Show your moves and no one can stop you’ and that’s what I try to do.”

Mahmoud is an offensive finesse player whose length can cause havoc on the defensive end. His agile movements give him the ability to play the four or five.

With Mangok Mathiang still out and Jaylen Johnson continuing to struggle offensively, the bench has to step up. Mitchell is the most talented back court player and Mahmoud is the most experienced active front court player. They have the potential to make cover the gap. Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal

About Dalton Ray

Sports editor (2016-18) that is technically award winning.

Email: dray@louisvillecardinal.com

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