Shades of Jeff Ruland, Moritz Wagner dominates Louisville

Someone around here once said if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. Possibly true but there seemed to be little difference from beginning to the bitter end this year.

One long basketball season for the University of Louisville, a few peaks but too many valleys. A failure to maintain focus on defense, accompanied by the lack of any sustainable offensive threat. proving fatal in the end in games that counted the most.

So many times UofL was unable to finish games, to rise to the challenge, even when it was obvious what the opposition was going to do.

The Cardinals caving again on Sunday, giving up still another nice lead in the second half, this time to Michigan 73-69. The loss sending the Louisville home after the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Jeff Ruland had 30 points and 21 rebounds for Iona against the 1980 champs.

Never has the pick and roll looked so easy as it did for Michigan’s Moritz Wagner in a 26-point performance. Probably the most dominating performance by a big man against Louisville in three decades.

The last time was when Iona’s Jeff Ruland scored 30 points in a 77-60 win over the eventual national champs in 1980. Iona, which was coached by the late Jim Valvano, had a 35th year reunion a couple of years ago to celebrate that win. 

One of the most maddening things about this team was the inability of Louisville’s big guys to hit the close-in shots or cash in on the gimme’s, consistently missing wide open, uncontested dunks all season long. Followup tip-ins always a bonus, coming as a complete surprise all too often.

Reminiscent of the first couple of seasons after Rick Pitino arrived in Louisville.  Lack of confidence, not much scoring from the bench, a poor shooting team, shaky from the field and on the free throw line, and unable to defend the basket. 

When the deterioration sat in in the second half, it was quickly apparent there was not going to be a happy ending. Not surprisingly for close followers of this Louisville team. 

Pitino worries about ‘mental’ aspects as Louisville bows out of ACC tourney


The college basketball season starts to get old when one’s team has lost three out of its last five games. Reeling as the March Madness nears, looking more and more like a premature exit is possible.

But there was Coach Rick Pitino saying he believed the University of Louisville could have won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament this time around. “I’m heartbroken we lost today,” he said after UofL’s 81-77 loss to Duke in a quarterfinal game.

“I really felt like we could win this weekend,” he said. “We could have won by 10 or 15 tonight if we had hit our free throws and done the little things. This team gives a lot of effort, has great heart but mentally they’re just not what they need to be.”

Pitino cited UofL’s final offensive play as an example, with players out of position on a play that his team runs every day in practice. Maybe he’s just being kind when he refers to the “mental” aspects of the game.

One of Deng Adel’s better games with 21 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Another horrid day at the free throw line with the Cardinals making only 15 of 26 attempts, many of them on the front end of one-and-one situations. The coach flinches at suggestions that his team doesn’t practice free throw shooting enough.

“We practice on free throws more than anyone,” he said. “We try not to talk about them too much because it can become a psychological thing.”

Another frustrating game for Donovan Mitchell, a first-team ACC player, who never seemed to get started. He managed three points in the first half and wound up with only eight for the game.

If there was a bright spot, it was the play of Deng Adel, showing a newfound ability to get through traffic to the basket. He would make seven of 14 field goal attempts, including two of six from behind the 3-point line, for a team-leading 21 points. Notably, he would also make five of six free-throws.

UofL has been down before heading into NCAA tournament play, only to turn things around, often exceeding expectations. But Rick Pitino seems to be admitting he has some extra concerns about this year’s team. He may be running out of time getting the answers he seeks.

Mangok saves best for last, Louisville edges Notre Dame

Mangok Mathiang could make Louisville a more serious contender if he could match his output against Notre Dame (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Mangok Mathiang may have had his best game since he first donned a University of Louisville basketball uniform five years ago during UofL’s 71-64 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

 Just happened to be Senior Night, a good time for the jovial 6-foot-10 Mathiang to also display traits of confidence and composure. Coming off the bench to score 18 points while pulling down 11 rebounds. 

Rick Pitino never minces words on the sidelines (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Equally impressive is that the official stats indicate that Mangok didn’t have a single turnover during his final game before a crowd of 22,612 at the KFC Yum! Center. Not even after he lost the ball on a one-man fast break that was as predictable as it was inevitable.

The win wrapped up a second place finish for Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference and guaranteed the Cardinals a double-bye in the upcoming conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mathiang scored 12 of his points in the first half, relieving Anas Mahmoud who had taken his starting position at center a couple of games ago. Whether this game was a breakthrough for him remains to be seen, with Coach Rick Pitino pointing out the play of his big men has been inconsistent at best.

— Donovan Mitchell was back as an offensive threat after all but disappearing in the Wake Forest loss, contributing a team-high 20 points on five of 15 field goal attempts. His four consecutive free throws in the final 22 seconds were crucial for the Cardinals.

— Quentin Snider was clearly the take-charge player during the final 20 minutes, scoring 15 of his 17 points in that second half.

— Deng Adel managed only six points on two 3-pointers, one of them a dagger giving UofL at the 39-second mark giving UofL a five-point lead.

Mathiang, meanwhile, was making the best of his last impression at the Yum! If he continues to show up, Louisville could be a serious contender.

Senior Day already for Mathiang, Hicks & Levitch

Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, Tony Hicks.

So many ups and downs for Mangok, so many defensive stops for David Levitch, so few games for Tony Hicks. But another Senior Day has arrived for the University of Louisville basketball team. 

Thanks for the memories. UofL fans treasuring the remaining games, no how many or how few.

Forever Cardinals. Forever family.

Wake Forest survives, deprives Louisville of possible No. 1 seed

The Wake Forest players couldn’t wait until the end of the game to start celebrating, some of them jumping up and down with 10 seconds to go, their fans making their way down to the court.

The 88-81 win over the eighth-ranked University of Louisville obviously a big one, an unexpected triumph for the Demon Deacons.

Deng Adel kept Louisville in the game with his 22 points but still waiting for the Calvary (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Senior night for the eighth-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, not headed for the NCAA Tournament after the season, nothing to lose, letting it all hang out on a nationally-televised game. You know like they play this way all the time.

The Demon Deacons refusing to live up to their reputation, not rolling over, oblivious to UofL jumping out to an early 14-point lead in the first half. Hitting the circus shots, staying close, waiting for the Cardinals to go cold, whittling the lead to one point at the half. That was all the motivation Wake Forest seemed to need with all of the adrenaline flowing in the 14,500-seat facility.

Not a good road team this particular UofL basketball team, Donovan Mitchell seeming to lose his way after scoring all of his seven points in the first five minutes of the game. Mangok Mathiang credited with only one turnover but rarely able to catch a pass or make an easy shot look impossible. Ray Spalding getting off to a good start but mysteriously pulling a muscle or something, and never the same after that.

Deng Adel and Quentin Snider keeping UofL close with 22 and 15 points, respectively.

Not the best time to go sour, not with Louisville being mentioned prominently as a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Just another motivational factor for Wake Forest, nothing to lose, not much to gain except for a win over a top 10 team.

Watch them storm the court, those delirious Demon Deacon fans.