Louisville coach Rick Pitino said that the ACC regular season would be a battle each night. He said that the teams that have been on the bottom the past few years are much better. That was evident Saturday afternoon as Louisville traveled to South Carolina to face a much improved Clemson team.
The Cardinals looked good early on jumping out to an 8 – 0 lead behind the strong low post play of Chinanu Onuaku. He posted up early an often scoring 8 of Louisville’s first 12 points. Onuaku finished with a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds, his third straight double-double, but was in foul trouble for much of the game finishing with only 20 minutes of playing time.
With 6:58 to play in the first quarter Donte Grantham made a three to put Clemson ahead 16 – 14. The tigers would never trail the rest of the game in route to a 66 – 62 win.
The trio of Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and Donovan Mitchel, Louisville’s starting guards, put up numbers that were as cold as the temperature this morning back home in Louisville. They finished 5 – 34 from the field. Even worse was that they hit only 1 of their 20 three point attempts.
After leading by as much as 14 in the second half the Tigers gave Louisville a glimpse of hope as the Cardinals rallied to trail only 64 – 60 thanks to a Jaylen Johnson dunk with 12 seconds to play. Johnson was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw. Quentin Snider got the offensive rebound and passed to Lewis who was fouled on a jumper. Lewis made both free throws to trail 64 – 62. Avry Holmes was fouled on the inbounds play and stepped up and made both free throws to ice the game.
Louisville fell to 13 – 3 on the regular season and 2 – 1 in the conference. The Cardinals are back in the Yum Center on Thursday to face Pittsburgh at 9:00.