Ray Spalding finally had the game his coaches and teammates had been waiting for on Sunday.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore from Trinity High School collected his second double-double of his career, picking up 18 points and 11 rebounds in an 88-68 victory over Syracuse at the KFC Yum Center.
"Ray was a monster," U of L teammate Donovan Mitchell said. "We talked and I told him he could play the game like an animal and he came out here and did that today. He's so talented and has so many skills."
It was the best game of the season for Spalding, who had a game to forget last Wednesday at North Carolina.
When the team returned home after midnight on Thursday morning, Mitchell and Spalding made a visit to the Yum Center practice facility on campus. Mitchell shot free throws with Spalding and had a talk with his teammate.
As one of the team captains, Mitchell said he knows this Cardinals are going to need Spalding in the postseason.
"I told him he just needed to have confidence and play the game," Mitchell said. "He came back today and played like a monster. It shows me that he took my talk to heart. We need him."
Spalding, who was 8 of 9 from the field against Syracuse, showed a lot of energy against the Orange. With his length and athleticism, Spalding is a major mismatch for opponents at his position.
He's leading the Cardinals in rebounds during ACC games but hadn't logged 20 or more minutes in a game since Jan. 21.
"I think the whole team has been inconsistent; not just Ray," Pitino said. "I think, Jaylen had three great games, and then he had two rebounds against North Carolina and tonight he didn't rebound the basketball. Mangok's had two or three great games. That's been the problem with us. We haven't had consistency on the backboard from the same players, but the good thing is you've got enough players that you can substitute and find out who's the guy that's going to get the job done."
But Pitino had said before that Spalding has "as much potential as anyone," he's ever coached.
"If Ray plays like that," Deng Adel said with a smile. "It's really going to help us."