By Dalton Ray–
Even though Louisville is a two-seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament, coach Rick Pitino’s team is an inexperienced bunch when it comes to postseason play. Only three members of the team, Quentin Snider, Mangok Mathiang and Jaylen Johnson, have played in a postseason tournament.
What happens to Louisville when the big lights are on?
Facing 15-seeded Jacksonville State, what is the perfect recipe for the Gamecocks to upset the Cardinals? Hold Donovan Mitchell in check. Keep Louisville to under seven 3-pointers made. Have a player score over 25.
JSU did all three of these things, but U of L found a way to win.
Despite the poor shooting night for Mitchell, 3-of-15 for nine points, Pitino liked his performance.
“I’ve been trying to get (Mitchell) to focus on other things than scoring … when he is being focused on. Tonight, he wasn’t necessarily on, but he had 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. He’s came a long way. Normally if he’s not making shots, we wouldn’t get that out of him,” Pitino said.
Both Mangok Mathiang, 18 points, and Deng Adel, 16 points, picked up the slack for Mitchell against the Gamecocks.
When Louisville makes seven or more 3-pointers on the season, the Cards are undefeated. When they make less than seven, Louisville is 13-8. Not only did Jacksonville State hold Louisville to five 3-pointers, JSU made 10-of-19.
Also in Jacksonville State’s favor, Norbertas Giga scored 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting. Giga entered the game shooting 8-of-23 from three on the season, but hit 4-for-4 from three against Louisville. Having a career game, Giga kept the Gamecocks in the game.
Louisville prevailed by getting key defensive stops and limiting other players.
This game showed Louisville how fragile tournament games are. Teams come in ready to play and this game was a prime example of why Louisville needs to keep their urgency in check.
The Cardinals will have their hands full against Michigan, one of the hottest teams in the country. The Wolverines answered their Big Ten championship tournament run by knocking down 16-of-29 3-pointers against Oklahoma State to advance to the second round.
“I watched the second half and I’ve never seen shooting like that since I’ve been a coach. It’s incredible the way (Michigan) shoots the basketball,” Pitino said. “We know what we’re in for. It’ll be the toughest second round match-up I’ve had while in this business.”
The Cardinals weathered the storm against Jacksonville State, but U of L will be tested with a team with a higher talent level.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal