I really am going to try and make this quick. I don’t have too much time right now, and if I don’t get this posted now, it will be very late tonight before I can get to it. I prefer to go ahead and knock it out, and move on from this game. So here are a few quick thoughts after the 71-67 loss to Michigan State…
This team is for real
As Louisville fans, we knew this team was pretty good. We didn’t exactly know how good. To this point, the competition had been bad, but the Cards were still blowing the teams out. So we really weren’t sure. Now we know that this team can compete with just about anybody. There is still a big test coming on the road on December 26, and obviously ACC play, but this was refreshing to see.
I am not saying that Louisville will make it to the Final Four. I am also not saying that they won’t. Obviously, Pitino-coached Louisville teams hit their stride in March and usually don’t look this good in November. There were plenty of mistakes that, had they not happened, Louisville beats Michigan State last night. But still, the team played well for the most part and just lost to a good team on the road. I am very confident that our Louisville Cardinals are the real deal this season.
Lee & Lewis…enough said
Another question after facing the weaker competition was how Damion Lee and Trey Lewis would play against the big-time teams. Well, we can put that one to bed. These guys are legit and can play and score against anybody. I am not getting ahead of myself by saying that. I don’t mean that they will combine for 44 points against every good team. I just mean that going into an environment like that and playing the way they did showed that they are ready for the step up in competition that people wondered about when they transferred from Cleveland State and Drexel.
The pair combined for 44 points on 15-28 shooting and made all four of the Cards’ three point field goals. Lee played 38 minutes and Lewis played 36. If not for them, Louisville probably gets run out of the gym. Again, there are plenty more big tests remaining this season, but these two showed that they are ready for the spotlight.
Onuaku’s foul trouble
We knew that this would be an issue. It just can’t continue to be one in big games. Chinanu Onuaku basically played himself out of this game with two early fouls. He sat for the rest of the first half and never got in any kind of rhythm for the whole game. In just 16 minutes, he had 2 points and 6 rebounds. Yes, 6 rebounds in 16 minutes. If he plays 30 minutes or so, he grabs 10 boards and helps the Cards from getting beat 40-30 on the glass.
When he has stayed on the court and been involved in this early season, the benefits are obvious. It gives Louisville a big body down low that is looking to score and can draw fouls, and it clearly gives them another good rebounder. If he picks up early fouls, none of that can happen. He has to prove that he can stay on the floor in a big game and contribute.
Louisville’s front-court: Yikes
We know it was the Damion Lee-Trey Lewis show on offense for Louisville. It had to be. They had little to no help from the front-court players. Here are the combined numbers from Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud, and Jaylen Johnson…
75 minutes, 13 points (7 from Mangok), 6-18 from the field, 1-6 from the free throw line, 17 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks (3 from Anas).
There was no low-post threat for Louisville in this game. They have to do better than that. Anas has to find some sort of mean streak and dunk the ball when he is at the rim and not softly place the ball on the rim only to see it fall off. Hopefully this was just one bad game, and not the norm.
The coach in me finds the negative for the most part. But I have to end this post on a positive note. I hate losing as much as anyone, but I was still encouraged with what I saw. It was a true road game in the non-conference, which is rare these days, against a very good team. And Louisville came out and threw the first punch. Michigan State came back and made their run, as expected, and Louisville didn’t fold. They countered back. It was just a few defensive lapses and some big shots made by Michigan State that made the difference. Valentine going all Milt “Ice Man” Wagner from the free throw line didn’t help either.
I love this team. That was the worst charge call I have ever seen. And Go Cards!