Four days after No. 7 Louisville suffered a disappointing loss on the road to No. 8 North Carolina, Rick Pitino decided to overhaul his starting lineup by replacing Deng Adel, Mangok Mathiang, and Jaylen Johnson with V. J. King, Anas Mahmoud, and Ray Spalding. “Starting lineups are irrelevant to me, but when you get two rebounds in a game and you lose, I like to change things,” Pitino said. “If you’re a front court player and you want a lot of minutes, you’ve got to rebound the ball. Certainly Ray Spalding grabbing 11 rebounds and Anas Mahmoud grabbing nine helped have a 39 -28 edge.”
It was Mahmoud and Spalding who dominated the interior. Mahmoud finished with eight points, four steals, two assists, and one block to go along with his nine rebounds. Spalding had his best game of the season matching his career-high with 18 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Adel came off of the bench to provide a nice spark finishing with 17 points and Quentin Snider had one of his finest games with 12 points and six assists with no turnovers.
With all of the great performances by Adel, Spalding, Snider, and Mahmoud, none was better than Donovan Mitchell’s. Mitchell scored a game-high 25 points on 9 – 16 from the field, including 6 – 10 from 3-point range. He also had five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. His final points came on a highlight-reel dunk off a lob from Snider. Mitchell caught the ball one-handed on the baseline and slammed it emphatically to send the remaining fans in attendance into a frenzy.
Pitino raved about his star, “I think he’s playing like a star. I think he’s a great basketball player who put a lot of time and effort into his game. I think, if the rest of the guys would put the effort in the summer time like Donovan did, they would have made the same strides. There are very few people that are like him that understand that although the season is five months long that means there’s six-seven months left depending on when you start to improve. You’ve got to work at your game, and he did. He worked his butt off. Great shooter, he’s improved his passing. He’s a steal machine, quite a player.”
Louisville’s defense was solid, holding the Orangemen to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor and only 27.6 percent from 3-point range.
Louisville’s next game is on the road at Wake Forest at 9:00 on Wednesday.