By Dalton Ray–
In their first NCAA tournament game since the 2015 Elite Eight, two-seed men’s basketball overpowered 15-seed Jacksonville State 78-63.
Senior Mangok Mathiang scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first round victory. Averaging 14 points over his last four games, Mathiang points his success to coach Rick Pitino.
“Coach has made a big point of playing inside-out and it’s been working out for me. Guys aren’t expecting me to make a move in the post to go up and score,” Mathiang said.
The Gamecocks came out swinging and jumped up 8-2. Louisville’s struggles weren’t just on the defensive end, as U of L missed six shots at the rim to start the game.
Keeping the Cardinals afloat, Mathiang had eight points at the 7:32 media timeout. Louisville’s two leading scorers, Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell, were 0-for-7 from the field.
The Gamecocks broke the Louisville press for easy baskets but Adel caught fire. With back-to-back threes, the 6-foot-7 wing gave U of L a 24-21 lead.
Pressing for the entire first half, Louisville forced nine turnovers and connected on 8-of-11 free throws. Both teams made 13 field goals, but Louisville took 36 shots to JSU’s 22.
Getting defensive stops late in the half, U of L entered the break with a 38-31 lead. Sophomore Ray Spalding added seven points while Mitchell was held scoreless.
Out of the intermission, Louisville attacked the paint. With the opening three possessions going to the block, Louisville upped their points-in-the-paint advantage to 26-12.
Four minutes into the half, the Cardinals used a 6-0 run to push their lead to 46-33.
Anas Mahmoud’s block led to a transition three from Snider and put Louisville up 17 points.
Jacksonville State responded with a 7-0 run and cut the lead to 10. Norbertas Giga led the Gamecocks, finishing the game with 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting and nine rebounds.
Louisville’s double teaming forced JSU into late possessions and contested shots.
The Gamecocks got hot down the stretch, keeping them within 12 points. Louisville kept their composure by hitting timely shots to stay ahead by double digits.
U of L advances to the second round to face seven-seed Michigan on March 19.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal