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.

Bloody Monday for Louisville basketball teams

It was either going to be a great start for the week … or an ugly one. And the uglies won, going away.

Should have known going in that it was going to be one of those Mondays when nothing goes right. If Mondays aren’t already challenging enough, why not start the week off with the University of Louisville on the road against two top 10 teams?

After learning that Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel had been suspended, my wife had suggested early in the day going out to a movie.  Not much hope for the women either, not with Myisha Hines-Allen still not ready for the game at Notre Dame.

The eternal optimist should have taken her advice.

The games were on consecutive on ESPN channels making it easy to follow both teams. Turned out to be double trouble, the UofL women never in the game against Notre Dame, the men seemingly never returning from the locker room after half time against Virginia.

The 71-55 loss to the Cavaliers, a team that appeared ready to get beaten, ended a four-game winning streak for the UofL men. The player suspensions, combined with the injuries, took their toll this night while raising questions about this team’s chemistry. So many ups and downs are not consistent with building momentum down the stretch.

The women, meanwhile, were losing to Notre Dame still again, this time 85-66, their second consecutive loss. They were behind by five at the end of the first quarter and out of it trailing by 22 at the half. Without Hines-Allen around, they lack toughness, getting pushed around too easily, surprisingly easily for a team with so much size.

Mondays are always challenging, some worse than others.

Notre Dame toys with Louisville’s defense

Never once did one get the feeling that the University of Louisville basketball team was going to beat Notre Dame in the 77-70 loss to the Irish at South Bend. The Irish owned this game from the beginning.

UofL was a team still learning, going through the motions on defense, still struggling with the fundamentals, allowing Notre Dame to get to the basket time after time. 

“Because of the inexperience and the lack of understanding defense with this team, they can’t confuse people so it’s got to be defensive talent, and that’s where we’re lacking right now,” said Pitino afterward.

The Notre Dame offense was quite predictable, sending player after player down the lane, looking for layups or fouls. The man-to-man defense unable to stop them, abandoning the zone traps for another day.

The Cardinals were unable to find the shooters, and the people taking shots were unable to find the basket.

The best the Cardinals could do was keep the game close, with the front line true to form, again unable to make the close-in shots. Totally different story on the opposite end of the court. When the Irish weren’t hitting layups, they were making 22 of 25 free throw attempts. 

Somehow Louisville was able to finally tie the game up at 68-68 at the two minute mark. The Cardinals were unable to find the shooters, and the people taking shots were unable to find the basket. 

The game was essentially over when Ray Spalding’s pass to Anas Mahmoud went awry on the next offensive trip. That would have given UofL a major boost and its first lead in the second half. Didn’t happen, with Notre Dame scoring seven of its last nine points on free throws.

The UofL defense still figuring it out and may get there, but the Cardinals are 0-2 in the ACC for now.

Soccer team comes through for UofL, on to the Elite 8

Having sat through three consecutive University of Louisville losses over the extended holiday weekend, one was more than little apprehensive about showing up for the UofL-Notre Dame soccer NCAA tournament game on Sunday.

Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Losses to Baylor in men’s basketball on Friday, Kentucky in football on Saturday, and South Carolina in women’s basketball on Sunday. A dark weekend for UofL athletics.

Why risk more disappointment? Probably because the soccer team has L-o-u-i-s- v-i-l-l-e on the front of the jersey and this UofL fan believes his team is always going to win the next game. 

The Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium turned out to be the perfect place to shake the doldrums, with more than 1,858 fans in attendance. Their enthusiasm embodied in the raucous group of students behind the east goal who never stopped singing. 

The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The UofL soccer team would not disappoint any of them. The decisive goal coming at the 19:53 mark in the second half — an in-your-face boomer by sophomore Tate Schmitt of a corner kick by his classmate Danny Reynolds. 

Freshman Cherif Dieye would break free for another goal with six seconds remaining to seal a 3-1 victory over Notre Dame. The win sends Louisville to the NCAA’s Elite Eight for the first time in four years and the fourth time in the seven years.

Louisville soccer ending the weekend on a high note, evoking memories of a deep tournament run in 2010, creating the vision of some special magic over the next couple of weeks. The Cardinals will next clash with Stanford here on Saturday .

UofL fans needed some positive news and the soccer team was happy to oblige.

Solak seals win in opener, Louisville takes Notre Dame twice

Gotta love those welcome home committees at home plate.

Bottom of the 11th inning, two outs remaining, Louisville trailing Notre Dame by a run, the first game of a doubleheader at Jim Patterson Stadium. Runs hard to come by, UofL hasn’t led all day. Now or never.

Stepping up to the plate for UofL is Nick Solak, the player with the Hollywood looks, the player born for these kind of situations,  with a runner on first base. He will not disappoint, blasting the baseball into outer space, a 380-foot drive easily clearing the 2007 College World Series sign in left centerfield.

Nick Solak sends one into orbit.
Nick Solak sends one into orbit.

The two-run home run capping a third come-from-behind effort in the game, giving Louisville a dramatic 4-3 win before 2,288 fans at Jim Patterson field.  His third hit in the game, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Zack Burdi having shut down Notre Dame with a runner on third in the top of the 11th, claiming his first win in relief.

Especially encouraging is Kyle Funkhouser, the starting pitcher, going eight full innings, allowing only one run on three hits. The senior right hander has now pitched 311 innings, the most ever for a UofL pitcher, surpassing Mike Shields during three seasons in the late seventies.

UofL will win the nightcap 8-2 behind left handed pitcher Brendan McKay, striking out 13 batters, allowing only three hits in six and two-thirds innings. He’s off to a 4-0 start and hasn’t allowed an earned run yet. The sophomore also had two hits, including a double, while driving in two runs. Solak also had a couple of hits in the second game, raising his hitting streak to 12 games.

The defending ACC champs are off to a 2-0 start in conference play, with a 12-2 overall record.