Three take-aways from Louisville’s 78-63 win over Jacksonville State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday:
1. Louisville didn’t need a big scoring game from Donovan Mitchell
“They never stopped. We had relentless pressure on them, they never stopped.”
“I was very impressed with Donovan Mitchell. I’ve been trying to get him to focus on other things beside scoring.”
Mitchell scored just nine points, but he grabbed 10 rebounds and dished five assists. Mitchell didn’t score his first points came on two free throws with 15:31 left, his first field goal with just 6:01 left.
Louisville started the game an abysmal 1-of-10 from the floor. The Cardinals missed plenty of shots right at the rim. They ended up shooting 37.1 percent from the floor. Mitchell, a first-team All-ACC selection, went 0-for-8 from the floor in the first half. He missed all four of his three-point attempts.
Still, Louisville led 38-31 at the half. They outrebounded the Gamecocks 21-13. Despite his shooting woes, Mitchell had six rebounds in the first half. Four of those came on the offensive glass.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville State shot 59.1 percent the first half, but trailed by seven at the break. Harper’s team committed nine turnovers against U of L’s pressure in the first half. Louisville committed just three turnovers.
Second half, the Cards were as hot as they were cold in the first half, shooting 64.3 percent to finish at 48.4 for the game. Mangok Mathiang finished with 18 points, hitting eight of 13 shots from the floor.
As for Mangok’s defense, well . . .
2. Jacksonville State’s Norbertas Giga had the game of his life
“I thought Mangok had a great offensively,” Pitino said. “Defensively, he tried to put Norbertas Giga in the NBA.”
The 7-foot-1 junior from Lithuania scored a game-high 30 points. Giga hit 11 of 13 shots and was a perfect five-of-five from three-point range. He did turn it over five times, but he grabbed nine rebounds.
Giga scored 17 points in the second half, including four of his five three-pointers. He came into the game averaging 10.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. He had made just 25 percent of his three-pointers.
“My teammates kept finding me,” said Giga afterward. “I kept shooting the ball and it kept going in.”
“I think he showed today he has a ton of ability,” said Jacksonville State coach Ray Harper, the former Western Kentucky coach. “The sky’s the limit for him. Now we’ll see how hard he works in the off-season and how good he wants to be.”
Harper said problems on the glass hurt the Gamecocks. Louisville won the boards 26-23 and had 24 second-chance points to just three for Jacksonville State.
“The game was determined by our inability to rebound the ball,” Harper said. “It definitely wasn’t a lack of effort.”
3. Louisville will have its hands full with Michigan on Saturday
The red-hot Wolverines are on a roll after winning the Big 10 Tournament title, then pulling out a 92-91 win over Oklahoma State in Friday’s first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Guard Derrick Walton Jr. scored 26 points for Michigan, now 25-11 not he season. DJ Wilson added 19. M-A Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Irvin each scored 16 points for Michigan, which shot 51.8 percent from the floor. John Belien’s team had 19 assists compared to just four turnovers in the game.
Oklahoma State shot 54.7 percent in falling to 20-13. And the Cowboys outrebounded Michigan 40-21. The difference? Michigan made 16 of 29 three-point shots. Walton was six-of-nine from behind the line. Irvin made four of his six three-point attempts.
“We’re playing the Golden State Warriors on Sunday,” said Pitino who called it the toughest second-round game. “I watched some of the second half and I’ve never seen shooting like that.”
Michigan has now won five straight and seven of its last eight games. Of course, these two teams met in the 2013 national championship in Atlanta with Louisville winning 82-76. That same year, the Cards defeated Duke in the regional final at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.