Shots not falling but Mitchell focused, Louisville moves to next round

A little shaky getting out of the gate, understandable with so few members of the University of Louisville basketball team having NCAA tournament experience. Good to get those first few minutes out of the way, get down to business.

Not the best of starts for Donovan Mitchell, his first ever appearance in the tourney, missing all of his first eight field goal attempts in the first half.  Actually a good day for Mitchell, not allowing his lack of scoring to affect the rest of his game. He would wind up with nine points, 10 rebounds, fives assists and three steals.

Rick Pitino happy for Donovan Mitchell’s all around game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I was very impressed with Donovan Mitchell,” said Coach Rick Pitino afterwards. “I’ve been trying to get him to focus on other things other than scoring. If it’s not your night because you’re the main target to do other things … To me, he’s come a long way.”

Equally encouraging was the fact that his teammates picked up the slack in UofL’s 78-63 win over Jacksonville State in the tournament’s opening round. Playing aggressively, dominating the backboard 36-23, making 11 of 14 free throw attempts, and hitting 48.4% of their field goal attempts, including a third of their 3-point attempts.

Fifth-year senior Mangok Mathiang looking very comfortable around the basket lately, connecting on eight of his 13 field goal attempts, and leading his team in scoring with 18 points. Made both of his free throw attempts as well. Hopefully, he’s finally getting it in the twilight of his college career, maybe just the right time for UofL.

“Coach has made a big point of trying to go play inside-out,” said Mathiang. “And it’s been working out pretty well for me. A lot of guys that are not expecting me to make a move in the post and going up and scoring. I mean, it’s working out pretty well for me and for my teammates because I’m kicking that out as well.”

Deng Adel may have taken his play to another level, becoming one of his team’s most consistent players, reliable on both offense and defense. Adel making six of seven field goal attempts, including both of his 3-point attempts, for 16 points. Two of two free throw attempts.

A collective sigh of relief for free throw concerns, with the Cardinals making 11 of their 14 free throw attempts. Quentin Snider made one of two attempts, but Anas Mahmoud missed both of his.

Come on, Anas. Every shot matters this time of the season. Especially with a rematch Sunday of the schools that competed for the national championship in 2013.

Not a happy homecoming for James Green, Louisville rolls 88-39

The sight of James Green on the Jacksonville State bench brought back some memories from the past, not all of them good.

Last time Green was on the opposing bench, his Southern Mississippi teams were making life difficult for the University of Louisville, winning three out of seven games against the Cardinals from 1996-97 through the 2000-2001 seasons in Conference USA. His last win was a 69-61 decision during one of UofL’s rare losing seasons.

James Green
James Green

Green returned to Louisville after 14 seasons, coaching a Jacksonville State team from the Ohio Valley Conference. He didn’t appear to have aged much but had to marvel at all the changes since his last visit. Louisville playing in a new 22,000-seat arena, a team coached by Rick Pitino, loaded with giants and speedsters, and preparing for life in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Cardinals would outscore the Gamecocks 54-9 the final 10:07 of the first half and the first 10:34 of the second half.  UofL would outrebound them 60-16, outscore them 48-12 in the paint, 31-8 on turnovers, 39-6 on second chance points, and 26-7 on bench points.

Pitino would use every one of his 15 players, holding the score down. Green would play 14 players, looking for the next Clarence Witherspoon.

“This might be the best team we’ve played anywhere I’ve ever been,” said Green afterwards.

If just for old time’s sake, it was good to see James Green once again. But after enduring an 88-39 beatdown in the new era, don’t expect him back anytime soon.