By Dalton Ray —
Men’s basketball’s season comes to an end at the hands of Mississippi State, bounced from the NIT quarterfinal 78-51. The Bulldogs out-scored Louisville 42-20 in the paint, controlling the easy buckets throughout the night.
The long, distraction-filled season has come to an end for the Cardinals. Starting with an abrupt coaching change two weeks before the season and the removal of a national title in the middle of the season, the 2017-18 season will be one to forget for Louisville fans.
After the game, acting head coach David Padgett thanked the fans and his team, saying “the character of his players will take them farther than basketball ever will.”
“This loss does not define this season,” Padgett said. “I will love all these guys until the day I die. Everyone only has one first team.”
U of L’s poor shooting night (35 percent) started from the opening quarter and the Cardinals couldn’t shake it off.
Junior Ray Spalding was the lone bright spot, going for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior Quentin Snider, junior Deng Adel and sophomore VJ King struggled from the floor, combining for 8-of-28 shooting and eight turnovers. Adel was the only other Cardinal in double-figures with 11 points.
Adel finished just shy of the 1,000-point club, needing 13 points to eclipse historic mark.
Mississippi State had three players in double-figures and received 40 points off the bench. They gradually started to own the glass as the game went along, finishing with 17 second chance points.
Louisville finishes the season at 22-14, putting an end to a wild season. Padgett isn’t sure about his future, but he is sure about his plans after the game.
“I’m probably going to go home, sit on the couch, have a glass of red wine and think about what the hell I just went through for the last six months,” Padgett said.
Feeling the freeze
As the snow lathered the city, the Cardinals felt the cold effect inside. Louisville started 1-for-7, but four points from Adel put them on track.
Snider’s 3-pointer gave U of L their second lead, but Mississippi State closed the quarter on a 12-2 run for a 20-12 lead.
Handing it over
Despite Louisville’s poor shooting to open the game, the Cards stayed close. Mississippi State started to pull away when Louisville started handing the ball off and taking contested shots.
U of L committed two turnovers in the opening eight minutes. Over the next nine minutes, the Cardinals committed eight turnovers.
Mississippi State fused the easy layups with hitting a flurry of threes in the quarter.
Louisville scored five unanswered to close the quarter as Mississippi State led 39-28.
Searching for an answer
The Bulldogs pulled away in the second quarter by hitting big-time shots from several players. Louisville struggled to have anyone step up and couldn’t string together defensive stops.
Five minutes into the third quarter, Louisville only had one player shooting over 50 percent (Spalding, 4-of-6).
Three of Louisville’s four leading scorers (Adel, Snider and King) combined for 6-of-23 shooting with six turnovers midway through the third.
As pressure mounted in the KFC Yum! Center, Mississippi State pushed their lead to 51-31.
Against the wall
Facing an 18-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, nothing seemed to go in Louisville’s favor.
U of L couldn’t keep a hold of loose balls, three of the leading scorers struggled mightily and MSU knocked down contested shots.
Mississippi State pushed their lead to more than 20 points in the final quarter, keeping a safe distance from the Cardinals.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photos by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal