Senior Mangok Mathiang tied his career high with 18 points, while Deng Adel and Quentin Snider scored 16 apiece as the University of Louisville men's basketball team advanced in the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Cardinals scored a 78-63 victory over Jacksonville State in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first round of the Midwest Region.
The Cardinals (25-8) have won five straight opening round games. But it wasn't as easy as expected.
The Cardinals trailed for the first 13 minutes of the game before turning it on. U of L used an 8-2 run late in the first half to open a 38-31 at the break and then started the second half with a 10-2 run.
The Gamecocks cut it to 10 on several occasions in the second half.
MVP of the game
Has to be Mangok Mathiang right?
Nope, despite his poor shooting it was Donovan Mitchell in my opinion simply because he did what the coaches wanted him to do - get more involved in the game other than scoring.
Mitchell missed his first 11 shots and had nothing going his way on offense, but he finished with 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and one blocked shot. He did just about everything else.
Mathiang was solid and was right there with him as the MVP with his 18 points on 8 of 13 from the field.
Check out the Ray Spading stat line and it might not totally stand out - 11 points and four rebounds.
But Spalding also had one steal, one assist and probably led the team in deflections by a wide margin. Spalding used his wingspan to cause the Gamecocks trouble on the press.
The 6-foot-11 Spalding was a key factor to the victory.
*****Louisville now has a 12-game winning streak as a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals won the 1980 and '86 NCAA national titles as the No. 2 seed in both of those seasons.
*****U of L was dominant in the paint, getting 24 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds. The Cardinals had 44 points in the paint to just 14 for the Gamecocks and outrebounded them 36-23.
*****Louisville hit 31 of 64 from the field, including 18 of 28 - 64.3 percent - in the second half.
U of L coach Rick Pitino:
"First, I want to congratulate Jacksonville State. They never stopped. We had relentless pressure on them. They never stopped, kept staying in the game. Really happy for Ray because he did a terrific job in his first year. They have very good basketball players. I was very impressed with Donovan Mitchell. I've been trying to get him to focus on other things other than scoring. If it's not your night because you're the main target to do other things. And tonight, he wasn't necessarily on, but he had ten rebounds, five assists and three steals and a blocked shot. So, to me, he's come a long way. Normally, if he missed shots, he wouldn't do that. That's great. Mangok played great offense and tried to put Norbertas Giga in the NBA."
The Cardinals will play Michigan - a 92-91 winner over Oklahoma State - on Sunday.