To say that a game this early in the season is a must-win game is ludicrous. Or is it? Rick Pitino wanted his team to be 6 – 0 heading into tonight’s game against No. 15 Purdue. That wasn’t the case when Louisville lost to Baylor in the final of the Battle for Atlantis. The worst part was that the Cards had led by 22 at one point.
The must-win part stems from the tough schedule that follows the Battle for Atlantis, beginning with the Boilermakers. U of L then heads to its first true road game at Grand Canyon. They close out the month of December against Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana.
The Cards suffered no after effects after the loss to Baylor. Employing a strong post defense against a strong Purdue frontline featuring Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, the Cards jumped out to a 33 – 19 lead. Pitino discussed his team’s strategy, “Well, we knew we would have to win this game on defense and we certainly played unbelievable defense in the first half. Holding Caleb Swanigan to no points and Isaac Haas to one, but they’re a real good basketball team. We had to give up something when you try to take away the inside and we said before the game the we’re one of the best three-point defensive teams in the nation, but in this game, we knew we would have to give up some and we took the inside play away around rather than the outside because they would get us in foul trouble because we wanted to change our offense and we wanted to pound it inside. They’ll wall up and they don’t want to foul as well so we wanted to pound the inside and guys did a good job with that, so we’re real excited about it.”
Swanigan and Haas came into the game averaging 18.8 points and 16.5 points respectively. The Cards held both under their averages. Swanigan, one of the nation’s top sophomores, scored all 14 of his points in the second half. He also led the Boilermakers with 11 rebounds. Haas struggled putting the ball in the basket, finishing with eight points on 2 – 9 shooting.
The Cards frontcourt matched Boilermakers. The combination of Ray Spalding, Mangok Mathiang, and Anas Mahmoud played strong inside, both offensively and defensively. Spalding was the catalyst, using his length to affect the game on both ends. He finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Pitino explained why he went with Spalding over Jaylen Johnson, “We trapped. We fronted. We went after it really hard. The guys really focused in on the game plan. We knew how tough they are and they wanted to stay in the game, but Ray [Spalding] is the length guy. See when Ray pressures the ball up top, they can’t get the high-low. That’s why I went with him over Jaylen [Johnson] because Ray’s 7’4” wingspan, his length, stops the ball from going inside.”
Mahmoud showed his versatility by scoring nine points and dishing out two assists. He hit all four of his shots, even hitting an open 15 foot jumper at one point.
Sharpshooter Ryan McMahon showed why Pitino recruited him on the advice of Dick Vitale. McMahon nailed two huge three pointers and finished with six points.
The Cards improved to 6 – 1 on the season while the Boilermakers fell to 5 – 2. U of L travels to Arizona to face Grand Canyon, its first true road game of the season. Pitino said the Cards need this game at Grand Canyon saying, “Well that is the first road game, and I am going to show the…the first clip I am going to show is the Indiana vs. Fort Wayne to get the guys to understand that it’s a true road game. We need it. That’s why I wanted it because we need it desperately.”
As for the must-win scenario. Every game is a must-win, just some seem more important than others especially with the Cards’ loaded schedule.
No. 15-Ranked Purdue Falls to Louisville in ACC/B1G Challenge
• Purdue saw its seven-game winning streak in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge come to an end in its 71-64 loss to Louisville … the streak had been the longest by a Big Ten team in Challenge history … Purdue dropped to 9-7 in Challenge games.
• Purdue fell to 11-6 all-time against Louisville … it marked the 12th time in 17 games that the contest was decided by single-digits.
• Purdue made 10-of-23 (.435) from long distance against Louisville, but was just 9-of-30 (.300) from inside the 3-point line … Over the last four games, Purdue is 47-of-98 (.480) from long distance … Purdue fell to 39-9 under Matt Painter when making 10 or more trifectas, snapping a streak of 11 straight wins when doing that.
• Purdue has had 54 turnovers in the last three games, including 17 against Louisville … in the first half of the last three games, Purdue has had 32 turnovers in 60 minutes played.
• Purdue’s starting frontline of Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards were 0-of-12 from the field with seven turnovers in the first half … the trio finished with 23 points on 5-of-20 shooting with 10 turnovers … they entered the game averaging 47.7 points per game and shooting 58.6 percent from the field combined.
• Caleb Swanigan recorded his fifth straight double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds … he becomes the first Boilermaker with five straight double-doubles since John Garrett during the 1974-75 season … just three players in school history have had longer double-double streaks (Terry Dischinger, Dave Schellhase and Frank Kendrick) … he recorded his 14th career double-double, with Purdue posting a 12-2 record when he does so … Swanigan is also now 7-of-11 (.636) from 3-point range.
• P.J. Thompson tallied 13 points by making 3-of-4 from long distance … when Thompson scores in double-figures during his career, Purdue is just 5-4 … Thompson has made a 3-pointer in nine straight games.
• Ryan Cline went 3-of-3 from 3-point range for nine points and four rebounds … he is now 5-of-9 (.556) from long distance since his return three games ago.