UofL Basketball Roundup: Oh my, Donovan Mitchell!

Jan 27, 2016 at 9:26 pm
UofL Basketball Roundup: Oh my, Donovan Mitchell!
Aaron: Oh my, Donovan Mitchell. I’ve seen a lot of dunks in my day, but I can think of only one that  rivals the one I saw Mitchell put on Florida State — Montrezl Harrell in the ’13 National Championship game. I’ve heard others bring up Kyle Kuric at Marquette, which I agree was pretty nasty. I have to imagine there’s a Terrance Williams dunk or two that should round out the top-5 all time, but nothing specific is coming to mind.
I’ve seen the replay a number of times, and between the different camera angles and the slow motion, television simply does not do it justice. Since I have recently dipped into Dead Poet’s Society references for this week’s Literary LEO issue, I think the only appropriate way to describe Donovan Mitchell’s dunk is to let Walt Whitman describe it:
“O me, O life? … That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
Except it’s probably more like, “O me, O my!!” and it was more thunder than poetry.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, the Cards had a great week. The dominance they displayed against a tournament bubble team (most likely out if season ended today) was simply awesome. The depth of talent and size was on full display, as 10 guys got good playing time, and even the senior leader, Damion Lee, only had to play 33 minutes during the 19-point win (Lee hasn’t played fewer than 35 minutes since conference play and the UK game). Chinanu Onuaku was his usual double-double self (11 points and 14 rebounds), while only fouling twice (albeit in only 28 minutes).
The best news was the rediscovery of their shooting, as the Cards went 5-of-16 from 3-point, and nearly 48 percent from the field.
After that performance, one wouldn’t consider even the snowstorm of the century down to Atlanta could slow the Cards down, but it appears that this is the story of road-life in the ACC this year.
While I’m not sure what a comfortable game would have looked like, a Georgia Tech team that entered the game with an 11-8 record, but only a 1-4 conference record, seemed like it should’ve been the most comfortable game one could expect. Not so much.
I will say this, I am not this guy or this fan, but for the first half of basketball it looked like the Cards were the victims of straight-up bad luck. Sure, there’s the concept of creating your own luck, but the ball looked like a magnet running away from the Cards from the opening tip. Losing 39-32 after 20 minutes, it was like every loose ball and rebound bounced Georgia Tech’s way, and every UofL shot or layup bounced in and out, or rolled around the rime and out. It was painful.
In the second half, the Cards hunkered down and proved they were poised and prepared for a full 40-minute battle, and ultimately wore down the Yellow Jackets, winning 75-71. Once again sparking a second-half comeback was the Energizer bunny, Donovan Mitchell, who scored 11 points (all in the second half) including two free throws to ice the game with 16 seconds left.
And while the rest of the Cards made big plays and big shots, the star of the show was Anas Mahmoud. In 27 minutes, he put together a career-high 15 points, including 13 on 5-of-6 shooting in the final 12:25. For the stretch run, the sophomore was unstoppable, making professional post moves around the rim with both right and left hands, and stepping out hitting jump shots when left alone.
Georgia Tech deserves a lot of credit for playing a tough game. Louisville had only been out rebounded twice all season, and average 12 more rebounds per game against their opponents. Georgia Tech out rebounded the Cards 41-33. Also, every time the Cards made a run, the Yellow Jackets turned around and hit a big shot.
Again, while UofL fans may have expected the more-talented Cards to roll through Atlanta and pick up an easy win, in fact, every one should have expected a battle — while Georgia Tech is 1-5 in the ACC, of the five losses the largest deficit was by eight points at top-ranked North Carolina and at Notre Dame, along with five points at Pittsburgh, and a single point vs. Virginia Tech. Not to mention, their lone win was against a Virginia team that was ranked fourth nationally at the time.
Cardsnation seemed to exhale a collective breath when that game ended. The Cards do get Georgia Tech again March 1, but coming to the YUM! Center, it’s hard to see how Georgia Tech will be able to keep up.
Next, the Cards go to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech has some good wins against NC State and Virginia, and are coming off two heartbreaking losses by two at Notre Dame and five versus North Carolina.
Expect another great great game. If the Cards make shots, they will win going away. If they struggle shooting, I expect the Cards to wear down the Hokies, make a few plays late, and win another close road game.
(Then we get to look forward to Virginia and North Carolina in a three-day stretch. Sheesh.)
Ashley: Well … it's official … the beloved Cardiac Cards are back in town. Hopefully they are not here to stay, but they are here as of Saturday afternoon. While Louisville had an impressive win over Florida State last week, they dropped the ball against Georgia Tech. I’m happy with an ACC road win and the overall great defense this team is playing, but I would be remiss not to make mention of some glaring issues.
First off, the Georgia Tech game was way closer than it should have been. No disrespect to Georgia Tech by any means, but Louisville missed a thousand layups! I know I counted at least 10, which of course is the difference between this being a close game or this being a blowout. Let's be clear, I keep track of missed layups for the 6th grade boys basketball team at North Oldham Middle School, and at the end of every practice and/or game they owe me one sprint for every layup missed. So, at this level of basketball, it's unacceptable for guys, especially those 6' 5" and above to miss layups. It's all concentration that close to the rim.
My next issue, which I've mentioned before, is blocking out on defense … another basic fundamental that can cost us games. There are still way too many times where Louisville gives up offensive rebounds and easy put backs. Take second chance points away from Georgia Tech, and it's a much easier, double digit win. The 6th graders at North Oldham Middle also run for missed block outs. I don't make them run because I like punishing them, I make them run because rebounding is all effort and hustle, and of course, because rebounding wins championships!
My last issue after watching the Georgia Tech game is that while running plays on offense, nobody hits anyone with screens … our guys are screening air! Essentially they are going to the spot on the floor where the screen is supposed to occur, but they aren't finding people! Not only is this a waste of energy, it literally makes the guards have to work harder to get an open shot. It stagnates the offense.
Ok, now that all of that is out, I must give some serious credit to one of my favs, Anas Mahmoud, for the best game of his college career! I spotted major potential in him last year because of his soft touch on the ball, his length and his court vision, but I had not yet seen him truly perform with his back to the basket. I have to say, he may have the best feet and post moves among all the big men. He missed his share of layups early in the game, but once he got comfortable, he was pretty automatic, and as a post player, it was beautiful to watch! I really like his development and his ability to use both hands around the basket. While I still believe he needs to get stronger physically, with David Padgett on the sidelines coaching him, Mahmoud will be a great basketball player.
This week will be another grind for the Cardinals. Virginia Tech on the road and Virginia at home. Man, there's never an off week in the ACC! Louisville will have to stay focused and do all of the little things right in order to beat both teams. If they can rebound consistently, get some production out of the post players and make the easy layups, Louisville will win both games by double digits. If they don't, we could be in for a long week! My prediction is Louisville by 18 over Virginia Tech and by 10 over Virginia.