WBB Stays East of Home
After a tough loss at Duke, Louisville will have to take care of the second of a pair of road games before returning home. This time, the Cards will be facing Virginia in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are coming off of a loss after having their six game win streak snapped against Syracuse. Despite the loss, Virginia held Syracuse (averaging 81.8 ppg) to only 54 points. After a game in which they managed only 55, the Cardinals will likely need a greater offensive output in this one to come away victorious.
Tonight's game starts at 7PM and can be found on the ACC Network Extra. Paulie will have quite a bit more to say about it, and we'll hope to see a F-R-E-D in the writeup of a win.
South Bend Curse Strikes Again
This game was decided in regulation, which is unusual for a competition between Louisville and Notre Dame, but it was the Irish that came out on top. Notre Dame is the number one free throw shooting team in the land, with multiple players shooting greater than 90% from the stripe, and that showed last night. Sending the Irish to the line was a bold strategy for the Cards, but they elected to do so often anyway. The officials in the game were more than happy to whistle fouls in both directions, making questionable calls either way. The officials called 38 total fouls in the game, and while the foul deficit was low, the better free throw shooting team will always benefit in a tight game. Louisville did manage to shoot 13-18, a respectable 72.2%, but they were outdone by Notre Dame's 22-25 mark.
Notre Dame's attack was led by Steve Vasturia (who looks like the plucky protagonist in a RomCom), Matt Farrell (who looks like the bad guy boyfriend in the same RomCom), and Bonzie Colson (who is averaging a triple double). The three combined for 64 of Notre Dame's 77 points and shot 23 of Notre Dame's 25 free throws. Colson added 14 boards to the mix and peppered in three blocks. Here's an early scouting report of the March rematch between these two teams: guard these three guys.
Donovan Mitchell continued his ascendance to stardom in Purcell Pavilion, filling up the stat sheet with 20 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. He did all while staying clean, turning the ball over just once (a strange over the head pass that looked more like it slipped out of his hand than anything else) and accumulating no fouls. Unfortunately, Mitchell failed to come away with the most important stat, the W. He also shot only 35%, due largely in part to being 2-10 from behind the arc. He was 4-4 from the free throw line and shot 50% from two point land. Mitchell is a very good player and is right to work on his outside shooting ability. However, when the outside shot isn't falling, it can be extremely beneficial to drive more often. Missed outside shots that lead to long defensive rebounds often have the same effect as a turnover at the top of the key. While it's clear that Donovan will be the go-to guy for the rest of the season, consistency will be extremely important. He played nearly the entire second half and scored only 4 points, making his 16 first half points lose a bit of luster. If you're gonna be the star, stepping up at the biggest moments is a definite requirement.
Like any game against the Irish, this one was up and down. It was mostly down for the Cards who led only thrice in the game, and never by more than two points. A minor comeback (of which Louisville had many last night) to tie the game at 68 was extinguished by a final 90 seconds that was extremely painful to watch for Louisville fans. The Cards will get another chance against the Irish in the regular season finale, this time without having to play in the dreaded Purcell Pavilion. Pitino has not won in South Bend as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, which makes having to play there seemingly every year rather unfortunate.
Louisville finished its holiday gauntlet with a respectable 2-2 mark. An 0-2 conference start isn't pretty, but Virginia and Notre Dame aren't terrible losses to have. The Cards will get Georgia Tech on Saturday. I'd say that the Yellow Jackets would make for a nice team to get the first conference win against, but they knocked off UNC in Atlanta before being absolutely mangled by Duke. Josh Pastner is always an annoyance, but hopefully the Dr. Jekyll version of the Cards will show up rather than the Mr. Hyde. There is a lot of season remaining, and I'm excited to see how it plays out.
Until next time, Go Cards.