** UofL lost by 2 points AT Rupp Arena to a very talented UK basketball team while shooting over 19% worse than UK from behind the 3 point line. Just let that sink in for a minute.
** Player of the game has to go to Donovan Mitchell. 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists while only turning the ball over once is only the beginning of the story. Mitchell came into the game and provided energy, defense, and was arguably the most competitive player on the floor for UofL. Mitchell is going to be a special player as he develops
** Ray Spalding had a rough game. He looked lost at times and just didn’t seem like he was quite ready for a stage that large. It is early, he is a freshman, and the sky is the limit for him. He will get it together, tonight just wasn’t his night and because of Louisville’s lack of front-court depth, that night was exposed even more.
** I have said this before and I will say this again, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis are special players. These two players we will look back 10 and 20 years from now and remember two leaders who were exceptional both on and off the court. This is their 1 and only chance at a national title. You better believe they are going to pick themselves up and come back better than ever.
** The absence of Mangok Mathiang proved to be more detrimental to this team than I originally thought. I think this issue was magnified by the fact that Mahmoud is not 100%. Had Louisville had Mathiang in the lineup today, I think the result would have been different. Regardless, injuries are a part of college basketball so you can’t get too far into the land of if’s and but’s.
** Let’s just take a second to stop and applaud the performance of Tyler Ullis. He played an exceptional game. As a basketball fan you watch the game he played and see a stat line of 21 points, 8 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover and can’t help but appreciate what he does. You have to give props where props are due, and Ullis earned it.
** If I was going to pick one negative from the game that can’t be had going forward, it would have to be the missed defensive assignments. UK is a freshman laden team as well and never seemed to leave a UofL player wide open on a missed assignment. There were multiple instances where a UK player got behind the defense or had a shooter left wide open. I would have loved to see UofL switch to a straight up man defense to negate this. I am sure Pitino will learn from this and correct it, but I feel as though it should have been a correction made in-game.
** How do we move forward? Let’s examine the team piece by piece to determine where the weaknesses are and how they are improved.
Point Guard– The point guard position is in good hands as long as Snider and Lewis remain healthy. They are both leaders on this team and will not be of concern as we move forward.
Shooting Guard– The combination of Lewis/Lee/Mitchell are the strong point to this team. Tons of talent, experience, and maturity are what is brought to the table at this position. There is no concern here going forward
Small Forward– Lee/Adel are a great combination of length and athleticism at the wing. Lee is going to play 35 to 40 minutes in most big games split between the 2 and the 3 and when Lee isn’t playing at the 3, Adel will be counted on to contribute. Adel is behind the curve of the other freshman and will take time to come around. How well he develops will be important because he can take a small load off of Lee. While the outlook is good, it could be great with a quick development of Deng Adel.
Power Forward– Someone needs to step up. Spalding may be the most talented player on Louisville, but he is still raw. Johnson has a great skill set, but hasn’t put it all together yet. Mathiang will help this position out significantly when he returns, but until then someone has to step up.
Center– Similar to power forward, the center position for Louisville could use some improvement. Onuaku can’t do it all himself. Someone else has to step up to help him. Mahmoud needs to start contributing consistently. Onuaku has to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. As stated above, Mathiang will be a huge boost to this position upon his return.
** UofL will be just fine. This team has the pieces to be a force to be reckoned with. They need to really work on finding a consistent post game and continuing to improve their defense. Louisville will win some games between now and March, count on it. And yes, I am still sticking by my prediction that this is a Final Four team.
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