With No. 16 Louisville leading No. 2 Virginia 56 – 54, Malcolm Brogdon came down and nailed an open three pointer from the baseline to put the Cavaliers ahead by one with 16 seconds left. The Cardinals dribbled the ball down the court and called a timeout with nine seconds remaining. The 22,788 fans in the KFC Yum Center knew that either Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, or maybe even senior Wayne Blackshear would get the ball with a chance to win the game.
What happened next was nothing the fans in attendance or even the coaching staff though would happen. Reserve sophomore Center, Mangok Mathiang, had made only 1 of his last 16 field goal attempts since February 1. After Terry Rozier was double-teamed as he drove the lane, he kicked it out to the wide open Mathiang who drained a 17-foot jumper just above the free throw line.
“I was so happy Mangok Mathiang made that shot because it was a big lift for our basketball team into playing well,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “What we tried to do, obviously we didn’t have a lot of time to, was run a lot of motion. We were hoping that Terry could get in the lane, look down low to Montrezl if he couldn’t turn the corner. Mangok was the 64th option. I will say this: Mangok has gone in the gym every night for the last two months. Nobody would play him, not this shot, but nobody would play him in the zone when he would catch the ball right below the foul line, everybody would just back off. I said to him, when he kept driving and turning the ball over, `if you can’t make a 14 shot son you can’t play college basketball at the University of Louisville.’ So he went in with a couple managers and he has worked the past two months. Now he hasn’t taken that shot, but it’s fitting after putting two months and about 1,000 shots. That shot was good from the moment it left his hand. I’m real happy for him because he put in the work.”
Mathiang may have been the hero of the day for his game-winning shot, but the player of the game was Harrell. Harrell, playing in his last home game, is expected to go pro after the season. He led the Cardinals with a typical workman-like performance. Harrell scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Harrell played a complete offensive game. He threw down four of what have become patented monster dunks, hit a huge three pointer, and was even 5 – 6 from the free throw line. He certainly ended his time at the Yum Center in grand fashion.
Freshman point guard, Quentin Snider, started off strong for the Cardinals by hitting his first three shots from behind the three point line. Snider scored nine points in the first half as Louisville held a 35 – 30 halftime lead.
Snider has struggled defensively since taking over for Chris Jones. However, Pitino gave a strong review of Sniders performance against the Cavaliers, I was very pleased with Quentin Snider because he didn’t hurt us defensively tonight. If he doesn’t hurt us defensively that is great because he is a very good offensive basketball player. Just think about this kind of game when he is shooting 28 percent from the field and 22 percent from the three in conference play and he looked like he was averaging 22 points a game. He goes into the game and throws blind lobs and he shoots the ball as if he is averaging 20 points a game. That is great confidence and that comes from within. He knows his statistics. In our meeting, I told him, `Q, what would you do if one of your point guards was shooting 28 percent from the field and shooting 22 from the three in the conference, what would you do?’ He said, `I’d probably sub him out’ that is what he said verbatim. `You took a bad shot from the left side against Notre Dame that was challenged. I have the confidence that you can make every single shot in every single offensive play. I don’t ever concern myself with your stats offensively. All I am concerned about is your defense. You have to stop hurting us defensively. Just go out there and play, son, I have all the confidence in the world in you.’ But defensively you have to pick it up and he did.”
This win against Virginia not only gives Louisville much needed confidence heading into the ACC tournament, but it gives them a double bye.
Louisville will now travel to Greensboro to face the North Carolina Tar Heels on Thursday. The teams split the season series with both teams winning at home.