One of those rare games in which a player emerges from obscurity, taps into his potential when least expected, and becomes the difference maker, immediately skyrocketing expectations for his college career.
If Anas Mahmoud should some day earn a livelihood in the National Basketball Association, University of Louisville fans will fondly recall the second half of a game against Georgia Tech. A select few may even remember wanting Coach Rick Pitino to pull him from the game early in the second half.
Georgia Tech’s Nick Jacobs, a 6-foot-8, 262-pound power forward, was having his way with Mahmoud, scoring two consecutive baskets over the UofL sophomore, pushing Georgia Tech out to a 47-41 lead. Some worried UofL fans on Twitter concerned about Mahmoud’s physical shortcomings.
Not Pitino, quickly calling a 30-second timeout to make some adjustments. Pulling Mahmoud was not one of them, the Louisville coach sticking with him following a ripple of heated instructions in the Egyptian’s ears. Mahmoud, as cool as ever, showing no emotion but he was getting the message.
Mahmoud would reward Pitino’s confidence with an amazing displays of offense, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Going directly at Jacobs, displaying some heretofore unseen footwork and confidence, turning Jacobs into a spectator with his newfound confidence. Jacobs, who had scored 16 points up before the timeout, saw a difference in Mahmoud on defense as well, and would not score another basket.
Mahmoud sinking two of two free throws at the 1:01 mark, the game clearly on the line, was another clear indication that he was ready to shoulder more of the burden as UofL enters the heart of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Two free throws Louisville had to have in the 75-71 win at Georgia Tech.
Pitino has said something to the effect that Mahmoud never gets overly excited or intense, perhaps a reflection on Mahmoud’s seemingly always calm demeanor. Always that confident look on his countenance. not consistent with his lean stature or his relative lack of experience in the game of basketball.
Something changed for Mahmoud against Georgia Teach, actually showing some emotion, flashing a big smile, bumping fists with ACC official Sean Hull in the final seconds. For a change, he was having fun, a new star enjoying his new place in the galaxy. Expectations have changed, his for himself and those of many UofL fans for him as well.
* * *
Future University of Louisville foes obviously have much more to be concerned about, having already taken note of the turnaround of Chinanu Onuaku, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds — his sixth straight double-double game. Expect to see much more of Mahmoud and Onuaku together as the stars and planets continue to align.