(Report special to Cardinal Authority by George Browning)
The Louisville basketball team showed no side effects from their 71-67 loss Dec. 2 at Michigan State.
In fact they nearly equaled that point total in the first against Grand Canyon Saturday in the KFC YUM! Center. The Cards led 61-30 at halftime and cruised to a 111-63 win.
Head Coach Rick Pitino said he told his team that Grand Canyon had traveled a lot in recent days and it would be important to start fast! They listened.
The Cards played with a lot of confidence early in the game on the offensive end. They were 13 of 14 from the field, 4 of 4 from three and 8 of 9 from the free throw line before they started to cool.
They shot 64 percent from the field in the first half on 21 of 33 shooting. They were 6 of 11 from three in the first half.
The hot shooting led to a season high 63 first-half points.
While they cooled off, it was still impressive. They finished the game shooting 54.3 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent behind the arc.
Let's get it started
For the first time In his Louisville career Ray Spaulding got the start against Grand Canyon.
The 6'-10" freshman from Louisville Trinity High School made an immediate impact! Before the first TV timeout, he had a block, a dunk, an old fashioned three point play and a steal and breakaway basket for a total of eight of Louisville's first 17 points.
Got his second foul with 14:33 remaining in the first half and went to the bench.
More foul trouble in the second half heat him from getting into any kind of rhythm.
He finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
It was the first time since December 21, 2004 that two players from Louisville where in the starting lineup -- Terrance Farley and Larry O'Bannon started against IUPUI!
Hard to pick an MVP in a game like this. The easy pick is 6'6" senior Damian Lee. He entered Saturday's game averaging 18.3 points and nearly had that by the half.
He had 15 points and was 5 of 7 from the floor in the first half, including 3 of 4 from three. He finished with a game-high 24 points. He also added six rebounds and three assists.
MVP Honorable mention goes to 6'3" Donovan Mitchell who scored 13 points in just 22 minutes.
Pitino said Lee's 24 will not be his season high.
Sophomore Chinanu Onuaku continued to struggle with quick fouls.
In just 4 first half minutes he got two quick fouls and could have been whistled for a third.
He settled down in the second half and finished with a quiet 10 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes.
Play of the game
To find the play of the game no need to look any further than 6'-3" freshman Donovan Mitchell's highlight package. He had several candidates to choose from.
Instead of picking one let's call it a tie.
The first came in the open court when a 360 spin move in the lane left him wide open for two with 7:14 remaining in the half. The second came at the 4:45 mark, when the Cards went hard to the offensive glass and on the fourth attempt Mitchell grabbed the ball threw up a basket and was fouled on the play. He missed the free throw but grabbed the offensive rebound, got fouled and hit both free throws the second time around.
The Cardinals have a week off before their next game Dec. 12 against visiting Eastern Michigan. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Pitino said the team will take off Sunday and Monday to rest and heal. He said Lee is nursing a bruised heel.
"He's fine it's just a little sore, and we have some other players banged up a little, so the days off are here at the right time," Pitino said.
While players heal, Pitino and the coaches will focus on the recruiting trail.