Long day for the University of Louisville basketball team. Sitting around in a hotel all day long, waiting for a 9 p.m. tipoff. Not exactly ideal.
Four of 13 free throw attempts? Not a good look for a team needing to rid itself of some nagging imperfections near the end of February.
Missing the first six free throws, a weakness spreading to other parts of UofL’s game. The free shots bouncing off the back, the side and the front of the rim, a couple of them missing the rim entirely.
Some familiar front line players still unable to find the bottom of a basket staring them in the face. Unfamiliar territory despite all the practices and individual instruction. Familiar mistakes but not getting away with them against an upper echelon opponent. Little things, but big factors.
Maybe worse for the Cardinals was the fact that North Carolina was getting so many more trips to the foul line, making 21 of 29 of them. Not surprising but more than a little one-sided maybe?
And all of those bounces falling North Carolina’s way, all night long. Defense forcing questionable shots but the home team making them. UofL actually outscoring North Carolina 46-20 in the paint. That kind of night.
North Carolina finding openings time after time in the defense, with all those soft spoken UofL defenders not communicating, not making themselves heard, paying for it. Time and again.
Donovan Mitchell off to a slow start, missing his first six field goal attempts. Hitting six of his next nine shots for a team-leading 21 points. By the time Mitchell started making shots, however, North Carolina was in full control of the game.
He wasn’t the only one getting off to a slow start. Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson never did get started.
Never had the feeling there was going to be one of those patented Rick Pitino rallies. Not a good showing on the big stage.
“We played good enough to stay in the game,” he said afterward. “We have to make free throws. Four of 13 is just ridiculous.”