The strength of schedule has not been the greatest this season for the No. 16 ranked Louisville Cardinals. That being said, the Cardinals are destroying their opponents by an NCAA leading 30.4 points per game.
UMKC, coached by former Louisville assistant Kareem Richardson, fought hard, but could not match the size or the talent of Louisville. Louisville shot 49.1 percent to easily roll to a 75 – 47 win in the first game of the Billy Minardi Classic.
Richardson was impressed with the Cardinals saying, “I think Louisville is a Final Four caliber team. Their length, size and athleticism certainly wore us down. That’s a part of what they do in terms of their pressure – their defense is outstanding.”
He went on to even compare this Louisville team to the 2013 National Champions, which he was an assistant. “I think compared to our national championship team, I think these guys are longer than we were that year and shoot the ball better with Lee, Lewis and Snider shooting the ball well and Donovan Mitchell starting to shoot… there’s nothing that this team can’t do and they pass the ball exceptionally well.”
Whether this team is a national championship caliber team or even a Final Four caliber team remains to be seen. They certainly are playing the part and have the potential in a year in which there are no teams that are completely dominant as in last season with the likes of Duke, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.
Trey Lewis and Damion Lee once again paced the Cardinals scoring 17 and 14 points respectively.
Chinanu Onuaku, Jaylen Johnson, and Donovan Mitchell each scored 10 points in a balanced night for Louisville.
Onuaku played well in all areas. He nine rebounds and blocked five shots. The even make four of his six underhanded free throws.
This is a very good offensive team, but defense will be the key going forward if the Cardinals want to go far. Rick Pitino mentioned that the loss of Mangok Mathiang hurts not on the offensive end, but the defensive side of the ball. His experience and his ability to communicate strongly will be greatly missed.
The first game without Mathiang proved to be a good defensive start. UMKC shot only 29.1 percent for the game, making only 14 of their 47 shots. U of L blocked nine shots and had eight steals.
Deng Adel returned for his first game in over a month. He looked a little hesitant, as is expected with anyone coming off a knee injury. Adel played 11 minutes, but did not score.
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center tomorrow night to face Utah Valley. Former Kentucky player Mark Pope, who played for Pitino, is the Utah Valley coach.