It was a slow start for the Louisville men's basketball team, but once they got rolling it was all over.
The Cardinals trailed 26-20 but used a 33-3 run to grab control and roll to a season-opening 78-47 victory over Evansville, giving the program its 100th victory in the KFC Yum Center.
Ten players scored, including three in double figures, in the blowout victory for the Cardinals.
"Well, I think we had the jitters a little bit early in the game, which is normal for an opening game with an inexperienced team," Pitino said. "Really, we played great defense, but we didn’t get the loose balls on the ground after playing great defense, and they scored off it like three times. Then we got all the loose balls and we went on, I think, a 35-3 run, which is unheard of with a well-coached team like them.
So this was a great beginning. We worked really hard."
Three key takeaways
1. Post position by committee working? It's only one game but the production the U of L staff got from the five position players was exceptional, including a few late minutes from Matz Stockman.
Senior Mangok Mathiang started the game and finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 20 minutes, while Anas Mahmoud had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in 17 minutes.
So, the two combined for 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Stockman had four points and two rebounds in three minutes to end the game.
2. Shot blocking ability will alter games: U of L coach Rick Pitino said this team would block more shots than any he's had in recent years and they started with 10 blocks against the Purple Aces. The highest number in a game last season was nine.
“Yea, I think Anas is a great shot blocker. I think Mangok when he gets healthy will block shots, Jaylen can block it," Pitino said. "I think Ray, when he starts playing like Jaylen, will do it as well."
Mahmoud and Johnson led the way with three blocked shots apiece, while Mathiang had two with Spalding and V.J. King one apiece.
3. Mitchell looks smooth at the point: Sophomore Donovan Mitchell has been running the point guard position in practice and he was pressed into that position when Quentin Snider picked up his second foul with 12 minutes left in the first half.
And Mitchell looked the part.
He had 13 of his 15 points in the first half and finished with five points, four steals and three assists. Mitchell looked comfortable running the point and had several nice passes in transition in the time Snider was out.
MVP of the game
Has to be Jaylen Johnson, who was relentless on both ends of the floor.
The junior is in the best shape of his life and we've heard all offseason about the new-look Johnson and what an opener. He started the game with three turnovers in the first five minutes.
But the rest of the night, Johnson was the MVP.
Johnson hit 9 of 11 from the field and finished with his first double-double. He had a career-high 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to go with three blocked shots and one assist in 24 minutes.
"I’m really proud of Jaylen," Pitino said. "He was an animal rebounding the basketball in walk-through, and he’s getting what he deserves. He worked so hard on his game this summer. He worked so hard on his body, and he has 19 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, and he really did a great job. I’m so proud of him. Sometimes you get what you deserve, and he got what he deserved tonight."
*****Louisville dominated the Purple Aces on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 52-29. The Cardinals had 19 offensive rebounds and outscored Evansville 23-4 on second-chance points. The Purple Aces had the first four second-chance points of the game.
*****Louisville extended its winning streak in season-openers to 13 straight and has won 22 of its last 24 opening games. The Cardinals have also won 30 straight home games in the month of November.
*****The Cardinals are 100-14 all-time in the Yum Center, including 47 of their last 48 non-conference games in the building. U of L is playing in the Yum Center for the seventh year.
Quote of the night
Pitino asked about the election had this advice for Donald Trump:
"He should be part of the Louisville basketball team, and lose his twitter account. He should join our team and lose his twitter account."
Next up . . .
The Cardinals won't get much time until they lace them up again, playing host to William & Mary on Monday night at 7.
The Tribe return three starters from a 20-win team last season.