Louisville Basketball got back on track beating a previously unbeaten Southern Miss team 69-38. In what was a fabulous defensive performance 5 days after one of the worst defensive outings in the Rick Pitino era versus North Carolina, the Cards returned home to the KFC Yum! Center and looked like a re-focused group. Also, Rick Pitino started two freshman, Terry Rozier & Mangok Mathiang, in place of Chris Jones & Stephan Van Treese. It was the first time two freshman started the same game since December 27, 2008 when Jared Swopshire and Samardo Samuels started against UAB.
In regards to starting Mathiang, Rick Pitino said, “We’re going to go with Mangok and live with it, live with his mistakes until he gets it.”
Mathiang’s length is something that Coach Pitino can not teach Stephan Van Treese, and Mangok responded in his 22 minutes with 2 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 blocks. Mathiang’s offensive game isn’t why he is in the game, but his ability to erase mistakes on the defensive side makes him valuable. The new rules in college basketball are making a shot blocker a necessity with so many guards getting beat off the dribble. Whereas, Van Treese’s rebounding and ability to screen on the offensive side makes SVT more attractive in that respect Pitino is willing to let that aspect of Mathiang’s game get up to speed.
In regards to starting Terry Rozier, Coach Pitino said, “I wanted to get him some confidence, get him feeling good about himself. It was nothing anyone did wrong.” Coach Pitino conitnued in regards to a question about bringing Chris Jones off the bench, “You aren’t listening. This program is Louisville First. The least important thing in our program is who starts the ballgame.”
Prolific scorer Russ Smith ran the point to start the game and actually finished the 1st half without a point. When asked when the last time that he finished a half without a point was, “I don’t honestly know, but I knew that question would be coming.”
An encouraging development was the turnaround of Wayne Blackshear who contributed nothing but fouls against North Carolina had a very solid outing of 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals against the Golden Eagles. If the Cards are going to make a 3rd consecutive Final Four it must do so with great production from the 3-spot. Luke Hancock was 2 of 9 from the floor tonight with just 5 points missing several wide open looks. Hancock is a much better shooter than he was tonight, but CONSISTENT play from Hancock & Blackshear is what can really set this Cardinal Basketball team a part from the rest of the country.
Cardinal fans can feel comfortable with the production that Russ Smith & Chris Jones will provide, along with the production that Chane Behanan & Montrezl Harrel will give UofL at the Power Forward position. With the 5 spot being a utility this year for UofL (maybe it develops into more) the Small Forward position and getting consistent play is becoming the more important spot to watch.
Can Louisville be a GREAT team in 2013-14 and make a 3rd consecutive Final Four? Southern Miss Head Coach Donnie Tyndall said of the Cards, “They’re not the team they were at the end of last year, but they have the pieces to be as good or better.”
There is no Gorgui Dieng, but the Cards still have the BOOM & Rick Pitino finally was able to get revenge over Tyndall for the 1st Round NCAA exit Tyndall’s Morehead State team gave to the Cards during the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Denver’s Pepsi Center.