Snider, Mathiang and Deng back but Louisville defense tardy

Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang were back but the offense was sputtering before a late surge for the Unverrsity of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No concern the game does not begin well, Miami jumping out to an 8-0 lead over the University of Louisville. Not to worry, UofL almost back at full strength, with Quentin Snider back, along with Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel. Happy days are here again.

Fortunately for UofL, Jaylen Johnson was around to get the “lunch-pail”buckets, per Rick Pitino (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

That was exactly the kind of mentality that concerned Coach Rick Pitino before the game. “I was afraid of that,” he said afterwards. “We had been overachieving so much. Ninety-five to ninety percent of teams lose this game. Miami was the better basketball team, they totally outplayed us in every phase of the game.”

Indeed. The Hurricanes seemed to be scoring almost at will in the first half. “We let them drive by us on straight-line drives,” added the coach. “We didn’t rebound well, we didn’t shoot well and we didn’t pass well.”

Yet Pitino said the game may have been the best of the year character-wise. “When the game was on the line, we did all of the above,” he said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do on defense.”

Louisville emerged the 71-66 winner after scoring 13 straight points in the second half. The crushing blow, a three-point dagger followed by a free throw from Adel at the 4:22 mark, giving his team a six-point lead and its largest in the game. Adel would make two out of three 3-point attempts, sharing scoring honors with Donovan Mitchell with 18 points.

Snider would need a little time to get going after missing six games with a hip injury. He would miss all three of his shots in the first half, but hit three of five attempts in the second — including a crucial 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining.

Jaylen Johnson sometimes missing the easy shots but making the impossible ones, delivering what Pitino called a “lunch-pail” effort with 10 points, eight rebounds, a block and a couple of steals. 

Mathiang picking up the slack thankfully as Anas Mahmoud regresses. Anas with three turnovers, zero points and a couple of rebounds while Mangok is collecting seven points and eight rebounds — and three out of four free throw attempts.

The win improves UofL record to 20-5 overall, and 8-4 in the conference, tied for second place before the evening games. Syracuse next, at Syracuse on Monday.

Quentin Snider making his way back for Louisville basketball

Quentin Snider weary of watching from the bench (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Great news that Quentin Snider has been cleared to practice with the University of Louisville basketball team. Watching from the sidelines over the past three weeks has probably been more painful than the injury.

Snider was knocked out of action after taking a hard fall after a layup against Duke. He was averaging 12.1 points and 2.6 rebounds. He was making five assists per outing in his last four games. 

Earlier he had perhaps the best game of his career in leading the Cardinals to a win over Kentucky, putting a career high 22 points against the Wildcats. The 6-foot-1 junior was coming into his own, embracing his leadership role, thriving in the Rick Pitino system.

Hard to gauge how much he was actually missed, with UofL winning four of six games in his absence. Louisville won games against Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, NC State and Boston College by an average of 31 points while faltering against Florida State and Virginia. 

UofL appeared to have made tremendous strides over the past month, enough so that some analysts were expecting the Cardinals to be competitive against Virginia. That was already asking a lot with the absence of Snider and Tony Hicks but made worse with the one-game suspensions of Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel.

No question that Donovan Mitchell became almost indispensable during Snider’s absence, gaining in confidence and shooting accuracy, along with a sharper appreciation for the point guard role. He can only benefit from Snider’s return.

The hope here is that the injury has no lasting effects on him. Snider could play as early as the game against Miami on Saturday. Don’t expect much after missing practice for almost four weeks. 

Snider never was the quickest guard but he knows how to work the Pitino system. Just having him on the court will be a major plus.

Snider injury forces Louisville to go with Plan B, whatever that is

Quentin Snider out for two or three weeks. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

University of Louisville fans were still counting their blessings that Donovan Mitchell was able to return to the game Saturday after injuring an ankle. Wow, that was scary.

The relief was short-lived.

Quentin Snider, UofL’s starting point guard, will be out for two or three weeks because of a strained hip flexor. The drama, the jinx, or the bad timing — depending on one’s particular perspective — is back.

This used to be an annual occurrence for University of Louisville basketball, a key player getting injured. Fans almost came to expect the blows during the early years of Rick Pitino’s tenure.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, with Snider having mastered Pitino’s system, the best point guard at UofL since Peyton Siva. Six weeks to pull all of the elements together, to make another run for the Final Four, Snider was getting better every game.

Going to be fun to see who Pitino goes with at point guard in Snider’s absence. Will he go with Mitchell or with Tony Hicks, David Levitch or Ryan McMahon? Could he make Deng Adel the shooting guard and fast-forward freshman V. J. King’s emergence? 

A waste of time attempting to second guess Pitino. Whatever solution he comes up with will be unique. That’s just the way he is.

Louisville basketball teetering with six games to go

 

A couple of weeks ago it was possible to envision a magical ending for the University of Louisville basketball team this season. My, how the outlook has changed, making it easy to expect a near collapse with six games to go.

The Cardinals were sailing with a 18-3 record, 6-1 in the conference, and on a four-game winning streak. Then came the baffling 16-point loss to Virginia at home, followed by a six-point win over North Carolina. Back on track, anything still possible. Then there was the bleak Friday afternoon when the UofL administration announced the self-imposed ban on post season play.

Rick Pitino saying the absence of post-season play making the remaining nine games much more important, providing extra motivation, trying to have fun, needing to finish strong. That doesn’t seem to be working out with the Cardinals having lost two winnable games out of the past three.

The magic has dissipated, replaced by something resembling a process of simply going through the motions. Fortunate to still be hanging around at the end of games. Six more to go under a dark cloud, each a major challenge in this atmosphere.

The latest loss a 71-66 decision to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, Louisville bowing after owning an 11-point lead with 15 minutes remaining in the game. Problem was the Cardinals could only manage three more field goals over that span.

— Damion Lee, with three 3-pointers in the first half, unable to hit another until the game was all but out of reach with 16 seconds remaining. Gets his share of points, 13 against Notre Dame, but those dreams of his, of hitting winning shots against major opponents have yet to come to fruition.

— Trey Lewis picked up 11 points. Has yet to exhibit any ability to take over a game, the leadership lacking, the distance between Cleveland State and Louisville becoming too much to overcome.

— Chinanu Onuaku draws a lot of raves from the analysts and some fans expecting him to be headed to the NBA after this season. But he still lacks the ability to stay out of foul trouble, catch a pass from his teammates, and makes making an easy layup really difficult.

Onuaku is the starting center for a good reason but he rarely proves it. He has come a long way, but he is not even close to arriving.

— Quentin Snider not making many turnovers but he’s not capable of making those Russ Smith or Peyton Siva moves under the basket. Frustrating for him, frustrating for his fans.

— There was that blocked shot and subsequent dunk by Matz Stockman to end the first half, but Matz would not return. Thanks for the bright spot, Matz.

One could go on but this observer doesn’t want to add to the negativity. There will be more than enough of that in the days, weeks and months ahead.

As for this season, things had better get better quickly. Maybe a relief when it does end and what may have been a mirage or a crazy dream becomes a tarnished memory.

Quentin Snider answers call, Louisville 77, NC State 72

Quentin Snider didn’t start at guard for the University of Louisville basketball team against North Carolina State. Rick Pitino apparently concluding Snider wasn’t quick enough to keep up with Anthony Barber and his catlike speed.

Snider wouldn’t stay on the bench for long, thanks to an officiating crew that was tagging three UofL guards with two fouls apiece in the first half — getting 32 minutes of playing time for the game. The sophomore guard would make the most of them, turning in his best offensive game as a Cardinal. In the end, it could be argued that it was Barber who couldn’t keep up with him.

Quentin Snider time.
Quentin Snider time at Raleigh.

Time and again, Snider answered the call in the second half, making three of his four 3-pointers. He would also make a pair of free throws, propelling UofL to a 71-55 lead at the 4:28 mark. NC State would somehow manage to reduce the deficit to one point but Snider had already done his damage.

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