Usually a head coach would be happy with a 74 – 51 win any time of the season. However, Rick Pitino was not happy with the way his team played against the visiting Southern Illinois Salukis. The two main reasons for his unhappiness is his team’s passing and their ability to put together a complete 40 minute game. Both were evident in tonight’s game.
Pitino showed his frustration in his postgame press conference saying, “We’re having a very difficult time putting together a 40-minute game like the first half of Baylor and the first 14 minutes of this game, we were brilliant, and we’re having a difficult time sustaining it – especially in our passing department.”
With an extremely tough four game stretch coming up, the Cards will have to figure it out or they could be in trouble. Pitino said, “We’re going to play another good team on Saturday, then play Eastern Kentucky. Then we’re looking at Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, at Notre Dame. If we play this basketball where we’re brilliant for 13 minutes, mediocre for eight minutes, we’re going to lose to all four teams. So we’ve got to get it to the point where we’re playing 38 out of 40 minutes with really, really good basketball. I’m hoping we can do it.”
The Cardinals scored the first 13 points of the game and were cruising with a 37 – 18 lead with 2:27 left in the first half. The Salukis then closed out the half with an 8 – 0 run.
As has been the case the past few games, the Cards focused on getting the ball in the paint early on. Mangok Mathiang was strong early on scoring U of L’s first seven points and 9 of their first 15 points. Mathiang finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds in only 22 minutes.
Deng Adel has been playing much better since the trip to the Bahamas. Adel scored 12 points and had a career high with 12 rebounds.
Jaylen Johnson and Ray Spalding played solidly for the Cards. Johnson scored 9 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked a career-high 6 shots. Spalding hit all three of his shots for six points. He also grabbed four rebounds.
The backcourt play will have to improve if the Cards want to be a great team. The starting guard tandem of Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider combined to shoot 4 – 16. Pitino was asked if passing is contagious and said, “I just think our guys are hunting shots too much. I think that it’s evident that we’re coming down and even Quentin Snider is just looking to score too much, when, in fact, if he would just pass the ball, get it moving, he would score more points, shoot a higher percentage. Donovan Mitchell and Q, if they would pass the ball more, move the ball, cut more, they would be scoring 14, 16, and 18 points. Instead they’re looking to take people on, and against a good basketball team – your play a Virginia – and you’re going to come away with about four points.”
With the win, Louisville improved to 8 – 1 on the season. Southern Illinois fell to 5 – 4.
The Cardinals return to the Yum Center on Saturday for a 2:00 game against Texas Southern.