November 3, 2016

Men’s basketball kicks off 2016-2017 season

By Dalton Ray–

You can tell how big a game is based on how Rick Pitino is dressed. The head coach paced back-and-forth on the sideline with a blazer, button-down and no tie. A relaxed outfit for a relaxed atmosphere.

U of L took care of busy in their exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan, winning 109-71. Deng Adel led with 16 points and seven rebounds. Jaylen Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

Louisville walked through the tune-up game as one would expect. Louisville jumped up early and cruised to the finish. At the half, Louisville led 51-31 while shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Totaling 11 points and five rebounds in the first half, Adel supported the hype surrounding him.

The Panthers closed the gap to 15 points in the second half, but Louisville quickly regained their footing. Fans began to leave their seats once the Cardinals were up 20 in the second half.

The big three

The Cardinals must get solid production from Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell and Adel to succeed this season. Combining for 39 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, the one, two and three spots carried Louisville to a big victory.

Snider calmly paced the Louisville offense, got to the basketball and found open players. Mitchell flew across the court and played pressing defense. Showing off his jump shot, Mitchell stopped and pulled up serval times on his drives.

Adel is as good as advertised and showed it. Taking rebounds coast-to-coast, attacking the rim and playing hounding defense, Adel really impressed. While this game is a scrimmage, it’s a positive sign for Adel to show his skill set early. A year in the weight room is paying off as Adel is noticeably bigger from last season.

Newcomers

Transfer Tony Hick had a surprisingly quiet night. Hicks failed to score in the first half, but only played five minutes. He finished the game with three points and five assists.

VJ King simply doesn’t look like a freshman, appearing on par with his upperclassmen. Obviously, King is still rough around the edges but has all the makings to be a very special player. He had eight points and three rebounds.

Ryan McMahon’s best way to get on the court is to connect from deep consistently. The sharpshooter showed off his range going  3-for-4 from 3-point land. A player coming off the bench that can knock down the three is a good sign for any team and Louisville may have just found him.

Bigs in the frontcourt

Louisville’s biggest question mark is at the five spot. Between Jaylen Johnson and Ray Spalding, the power forward position is in good shape. Anas Mahmoud got the starting center spot tonight. Mahmoud ran the court well and had six points.

Mangok Mathiang played for the first time in 10 months and you could tell. One can point to Mathiang’s sub-par performance as knocking off rust, or consider that Mathiang peaked early in his career.

Johnson is starting to develop a big frame, and he imposed that on the smaller Kentucky Wesleyan team. Johnson focused his energy on staying around the block and battling near the glass.

Spalding is becoming fun to watch. The way he runs the floor for his size is a sight to see and his wingspan gives opponents nightmares. Spalding will be pushing Johnson very hard for minutes this year.

Photos by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal

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