And just like that the third longest home court winning streak in the country came toppling down.
“I’m so proud of my guys for being resilient” was the quote from Louisville Head Coach David Padgett just moments after his team finally knocked off a top 25 team, after being down by as many as 17 points in the first half.
Last night’s performance against a very good Florida State team, was a true testament to just how hard this team has fought this season to get better. After coming up short in four games against top 25 teams (the only team in the country to do so), Louisville got their first big win of the season, and moved to 2-1 in conference play. The Cards overcame an extremely slow start where they got down big, giving up a 9-0 lead, while shooting 2/12 from the field.
Deng Adel and VJ King got Louisville going after the tough start, knocking down a couple of huge jumpers each that were highly contested shots.The ball movement and energy for the Cards was a night and day difference from what we saw Saturday against Clemson, and really helped the team get back on the right track even while getting killed on the glass by a long, tall, and equally as athletic team.
The Cards eventually cut the lead down to 13 at halftime, which was much more manageable than the 17 that they were down by in the first half. I fully expected the game to get out of hand in the second half, but the Louisville team and David Padgett deserve major props as they made several key adjustments on both ends of the floor and came out hot in the second half.
The resiliency was a huge factor as DP touched in the post game interview with the Fox Sports broadcast team. We’ve seen Louisville lay some eggs in the second half (specifically in the UK game) but on Wednesday night, they fought tooth and nail to get the victory. Down the stretch Louisville got several big threes from Ryan McMahon, who finished the game over VJ King, numerous big blocks (3 in the final 1:30) from Anas Mahmoud, and most importantly they took care of the ball. This is a win that Louisville may be able to point back to when the season is over and say “that is what turned our season around.”
Louisville was led in scoring by Ray Spalding who finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds, Deng Adel who finished with 16 points and a crazy 5 assists, and Ryan McMahon who hit 3 huge threes and finished with 11 points.
After the game multiple quotes were made by Louisville players about how big of a win this was for the program, but none stuck out to me than the quote from Quentin Snider.
Louisville’s Quentin Snider last night: “It just takes time with us. We’re still learning from David Padgett. We’re still learning from each other, with our new players. But we’ve got momentum now. This is a really big win for us.”
— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) January 11, 2018
This is a team still learning to play together and still learning to play for a coach who was thrown into an impossible situation. Last night we got to see this team come together and click in a way we haven’t yet, and it it was so much fun to watch. I couldn’t have been happier for this group of guys who have been through so much.
With no dominant team in the ACC and so much parody in college basketball, a run by this Louisville team is absolutely not out of the question.
Here are my three thoughts.
David Padgett did something Rick Pitino was never able to do
What if I told you that Rick Pitino was never able to defeat a top 25 ACC team on the road, would you believe me?
I can’t stress this enough. David Padgett was put into an impossible situation, with extremely high expectations and has done a spectacular job. Last night we got to see that play out in a fun, exciting, and rewarding way as DP was able to lead his team to victory on the road against a top 25 team, which was the first time that’s happened since Louisville joined in the ACC. What’s even crazier is that Rick Pitino, a hall of fame coach and one of the best to ever do it, was never even able to make that happen which made Wednesday’s win even sweeter.
Coming into the game Padgett stressed the importance of taking care of the ball and making sure not to give FSU the extra possessions they gave to Clemson on Saturday (21 of them to be exact). Kudos to him and to his team they were able to take care of their turnover problem, giving up the rock only 8 times compared to Florida State’s 14.
“21 times we didn’t have a shot at the rim, if guys are being aggressive and trying to create and get to the rim, and the defense is making plays, that’s just part of the game but we have to know that teams like Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina (are aggressive) and you have to be strong with the ball.” – David Padgett
As I mentioned before, Louisville went into the locker room at halftime down by 13 points with a comeback looking bleak. But Padgett made several key adjustments especially on the defensive end and was able to rally his team to a big comeback. I saw a Louisville team that looked at times this season like five individuals playing, rather than a team or unit, come together in a very special way. While the players were for sure a big part of that, Padgett played a big role in making this happen.
Deng Adel was the star of the night, and he did it in other areas besides scoring
Deng Adel made the decision to come back to Louisville for his junior season and work on the parts of his game that NBA scouts told him wasn’t quite up to snuff, after he declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.
We’ve seen glimpses of really good, NBA Deng Adel this season, but unfortunately we’ve also seen pressing, trying to do to much, be the star Deng Adel far more. Adel has been prone to taking bad shots, having the ball ripped by a defender or turning the ball over on fastbreaks, and a lack of contributing anything else when his shots aren’t falling. The Clemson game on Saturday was the perfect example of Deng trying to do much. While Adel did finish with a double-double, 14 points & 11 rebounds, he did it on 5/11 shooting, while also having 4 turnovers, and allowing his man to score several times off the dribble or because on a wide open shot because of a bad close out.
Louisville desperately needs Deng Adel’s star power if they want to win, and while he has been the team’s leading scorer (15.1 PPG), he’s also led the team in turnovers (2.4 TPG), shots attempted, and has been middle of the pack in both rebounding and assists.
To make it to the next level Deng Adel doesn’t need to prove he can be a scorer, we all know he’s capable of that. Instead he has to prove that he is all around great player ,especially when it comes to rebounding, passing and taking care of the ball. Against Florida State he did just that.
Adel provided a scoring lift in the first half, which was exactly what Louisville needed at that time. The Cards started the game off 2/12 and because of Florida State’s length they were struggling to get the ball inside. In that moment they needed Adel to make things happen off the bounce, which is one his biggest strengths.
In the second half, Adel mixed things up, taking his man to the rack for layups a couple of times as well as knocking down some tough jumpers. Adel attacked the basket and passed the ball back out to open shooters when available, tying his season high five assists as well as grab six rebounds. For this team to get more big wins against the ACC powers, they desperately need Adel to play within the flow of the offense and do the little things like he did on Thursday night.
Ryan McMahon = clutch
For most of Wednesday’s game against Florida State Ryan McMahon looked to be overmatched going up against Florida State’s length and athleticism at the guard/wing position. While many fans were clamoring on social media to have McMahon sit down for the night, and give Darius Perry/VJ King more clock, David Padgett instead stuck with the sophomore guard and it paid off big time.
Since coming back from injury, McMahon has been a lights out shooter for Louisville and has come up clutch on several occasions including the big three pointer to lock up the win against Albany back in December. However, what’s gone unnoticed at times is McMahon’s ability to play very good team defense and facilitate the rock. Standing at just 6’0, 170 pounds, McMahon doesn’t strike much fear into opposing defenses, but when given the chance the crafty shooter is able to get to the rack while possessing an extremely high IQ knowing when to pass the ball out to an open teammate for a better shot.
In the final moments of the game against Florida State Padgett went with McMahon over starting shooting guard VJ King, and McMahon made two huge plays that swung the game in Louisville’s favor. Both of those plays, likely couldn’t have been made by King.
With 2:52 seconds left McMahon drove to the rack, and right as he hit the inside of the free throw line he lobbed up a beautiful pass to a cutting Anas Mahmoud, who slammed it down emphatically with one hand putting the score at 68-63.
ONLY 1⃣ HAND NEEDED FOR @LOUISVILLEMBB
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) January 11, 2018
Then after Florida State’s Braian Angola knocked down a huge three pointer with 2:00 to go and getting the Seminoles back within two, Ryan McMahon made possibly the biggest shot of his Louisville career. With just :57 seconds left McMahon pulled up from deep and sank a three, putting the game just about out of reach at 71-66, or so we thought,
After another big three from Angola and a bad turnover from Anas Mahmoud, Florida State had the final opportunity to tie or win the game. Trent Forrest drove to the basket and was rejected (and fouled) by Anas Mahmoud, Terrance Mann got the rebound, and missing a follow up shot before Ryan McMahon grabbed the clutch rebound and was fouled. He would go to the line and put the game away for good.
There’s no doubt it, without McMahon making those three HUGE plays there is no shot in hell that Louisville would’ve won this game. The sophomore showed everyone that was skeptical (including me) that he deserved to be out on the floor in the closing moments of a tough game that Louisville had to have. I think it will change game-by-game, but McMahon also showed that he may be a better fit next to Quentin Snider than VJ King. King just doesn’t give you the passing, shooting, or the ball handling that McMahon provides next to Q.
This pic shows how much these young men want to win. They are giving all they have under horrible circumstances. I have to be a better fan. pic.twitter.com/nXrFhe8cqJ
— 🤟🤟 and 🤟 (@TheVille33and3) January 11, 2018
Louisville will face-off with Virginia Tech on Saturday when the Hokies make the trip to the KFC Yum! Center. The Cards have to be extremely careful to avoid a letdown and losing a game that is still a must win to enhance what is still a very weak tournament resume.
Both teams will be fighting to stay on the bubble moving forward.
Jacob Lane joined The Cardinal Connect in August of 2017 after previously writing for CardinalSports.com on the Rivals Network. Jacob covers anything and everything Louisville Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Lane08