Mahmoud, Spalding live big, Louisville routs Siena

The light switch may have finally been flipped for Anas Mahmoud in an 86-60 win for the University of Louisville over Siena College before a crowd of 17,215 at the KFC Yum! Center. 

Whether the switch remains in the on position depends on whether he continues to be an active participant  or is only passively involved. One can hope that he stays as engaged as he was during the second half. Apparently something he heard at halftime got him going.

Ray Spalding and Jordan Nwora battle for a rebound,with Spalding prevailing this night (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The 7-foot senior center went from a decent first half to a dominant second half, stuffing the stat sheet — dunking on Siena over and over in final 20 minutes — on his way to a near triple double, with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots.

Mahmoud has shown brief glimpses of potential during the past three seasons but nothing resembling his latest showing, energy that was lacking from him in the team’s two losses. Not like overwhelming Siena is anything to write home about, but at least it’s a start. 

“Ray (Spalding) and I need to make things happen under the basket to take some of the pressure off the guards,” he said after the game. Indeed.  He also could added something about the intensity level he brought to the game in that second half.

Spalding, meanwhile, was scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking four shots, and making four steals. Spalding and Mahmoud had managed only two points and nine rebounds in Sunday’s two-point loss to Seton Hall.

So Mahmoud and Spalding came out of their shells, at least temporarily, confirming that they may have the ability to live up to their potential. Nothing to get overly excited about, not until they live up to the talk, the promise, and prove they can do it and do it consistently again better competition.

An indication of whether the switch has really flipped for these guys will come soon enough, with UofL entertaining Indiana at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Pitino On Siena (scary team)

Mixed feelings watching the Ohio State-Siena matchup in the first round. Ohio State huge and plodding. Siena quick as lightning, slippery, quick hands, great shooters, rebounders. Siena spotted the Buckeyes 11 points, then went to work, the  win for Siena all but inevitable, even though two overtimes were required. Based on their treatment of Ohio State, Siena commands a great deal of respect. Rick Pitino is fully aware, having scouted the Saints.

Per the Schnectady N. Y. Daily Gazette:

Pitino and his staff have scouted Siena this week because they might see them in the second round on Sunday. He said he’s been impressed with the way the Saints program has evolved since Fran McCaffery became the head coach four years ago.

“I think Siena is sort of like Gonzaga, Xavier. They’re trying to go from a mid-major perception to someone, every year, who goes to the NCAA and not only belongs, but can win. And Siena certainly has the talent to do that, and they’ve done a fabulous job there. They have something that Xavier and Gonzaga have, a tremendous following at home, great facilities, terrific campus, so they have everything to stay at the level and not take a step back.

“I don’t think Siena’s a mid-major, I don’t think Xavier’s a mid-major or Gonzaga, they have major college talent, talent that could play at Louisville, an SEC school, Big East schools. I think they’ve arrived at that point. Same thing with Xavier. Half of their [Xavier’s] roster, we recruited. Siena’s up to that task right now, and you have to give them a lot of credit for doing it at a consistent basis.”

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Political Favorite — Senator Mitch McConnell, the University of Louisville’s No. 1 fan in Washington, D.C. is keeping close tabs on the Cards during the NCAA Tournament.  A former Card Game Fan of the Week, the Senator talks about his love for U of L in a feature over on USNews.com.

The current Senate Minority Leader and the former Jefferson County Judge Executive, attends U of L basketball games as often as his schedule permits. He rarely misses a home football game.