The regular season is over, the ACC Tournament has come and gone, Selection Sunday has passed and the time has come for Louisville basketballs first-round game in the NCAA tournament.
It’s hard to be victorious when your opponent can’t miss, and the Gophers didn’t miss much on their way to a 86-76 win.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Louisville had a totally random, completely unplanned matchup against tenth-seed Minnesota, coached by Richard Pitino, former Louisville assistant and son of Rick.
During the regular season, the Gophers won over 20 games, but couldn’t crack the upper half of the Big Ten Conference.
Playing in their first NCAA Tournament in two years and their first with Chris Mack at the helm, the Cards were eager to prove that they belonged with the country’s elite basketball programs again.
The teams swapped leads for most of the first half, until Minnesota went on a run and got up to a seven-point lead in the closing minutes of the half.
The Cards went on a 7-2 run of their own to get within two points, before a Gopher three-pointer in the closing seconds moved their halftime lead to 38-33.
Treys were a surprising part of the Minnesota game plan. Not know for being much of an offensive team, particularly behind the arc.
Minnesota continued to pour in offense as the second-half began, getting up to a 13-point lead early, with Louisville being forced to make the odd basket to just keep it around ten points.
But the Gophers just wouldn’t miss, making bucket after bucket and increasing the lead to 19 about halfway through the second half.
The Cards chipped away at that lead a little, and finally got it back to within single digits.
The deficit was as small as seven points with just over two minutes left to go, but Louisville couldn’t match the Minnesota offense and close the gap any further.
The Gophers shot 50 percent from the floor and made 11-27 three-pointers for the game. They usually average six treys per game.
Christen Cunningham led the team with 22 points on 4-10 shooting. Steven Enoch, Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora also scored in double figures.
Nwora had a double-double for the game, also pulling down 11 rebounds.
Louisville ends the season with a to 20-14 record. Minnesota moves to the year with a 22-13.
While Cardinal players, coaches and fans were certainly hoping for a better March, they can look forward to the 2019 season, including a dynamite recruiting class.<
Chris Acree joined The Cardinal Connect as a contributing writer in August of 2016.