The images that will linger from the University of Louisville basketball team’s 71-65 win over North Carolina are those of Damion Lee knocking down those three-point shots.
Was this what the Las Vegas oddsmakers envisioned when they made UofL a two-point favorite over the nation’s second-ranked team? Not logical, not mathematically possible, or very likely for a team that looked so disjointed Saturday in a 16-point loss on Saturday.
The gaming wizards are familiar with Rick Pitino’s pedigree, cognizant of UofL’s rich tradition, and they, more than anyone, know that anything can happen in college basketball this season. Why not just make Louisville a two-point favorite? Yeah, that made a lot of sense.
None of that mattered to Damion Lee. This was where he wanted to be in the spotlight, prime time, against North Carolina, 22,781 Cardinal fans fully engaged from beginning to end.
Right on cue, there he was, Damion Lee back in his groove. One, two, three, four 3-pointers from a player who was lost in the wilderness two days ago. He would score 22 of his 24 points before North Carolina all but shut him down at the 9:35 mark. He would collect his final two on game-clinching free throws with eight seconds to go.
Trey Lewis — When Lee cooled down, his fellow transfer would take stock, control his emotions and take over from that point, except for one slip and a turnover that would enable North Carolina to keep it close. Lewis would score eight of his nine points, in the final seven minutes. Fully in control, sinking those two free throws near the end.
Chinanu Onuaku — The big guy is still unpredictable, spinning back and forth between regression and progress every other play. Still lacking full control over his body, he’s too unpredictable for officials when he’s bouncing around. He makes the easy look hard so when he makes a good move he shocks his most loyal fans. Onuaku back in the double-double category again with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Stay well, Chinanu.
Anas Mahmoud — The look on his face says he’s just about got this basketball game figured out. The problem still is that his body has yet to catch up with his smarts. That behind-the-back pass to Damion Lee in the first half, a move that had Pitino wondering whether seeing was believing, needing Ralph Willard to confirm what had just happened.
Donovan Mitchell — Brings a level-headed approach to the game, along with occasional bursts of energy, which if he can manage better, will make him an All America candidate before he leaves UofL. Good for 10 points and five rebounds.
Ray Spalding — One never knows what he’s going to do next, throwing up all kinds of shots, a couple of them finding their way through the net. A little more self control and he could work some wonders. Gotta quit flailing, control himself, collecting too many fouls, four in this one.
Not an upset, this win, not when Las Vegas has made you the favorite. Certainly surprising after a miserable performance on Saturday. Definitely the best win yet, a harbinger of more to come this season.
Meanwhile, check out these audio highlights from Paul Rogers.