CRAWFORD | Quiet Quentin still the point man for Louisville offense in win over Bellarmine
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — So much has gone on around the University of Louisville basketball program lately, it’s easy to forget where the program left off — with Quentin Snider sailing in to save the team’s season last winter after Chris Jones was dismissed from the team.
Snider had one of the more important a late-season runs for a freshman in Louisville history in helping the Cardinals scratch to within an overtime loss of the Final Four last season.
But there hasn’t been as much talk about him in this preseason. Between the Puerto Rico trip and the new freshmen and transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis — who also is learning the point guard spot — the understated Snider has been content to sit in the background.
But he’s done more than sit. He has slimmed down. His shooting has heated up. And though he had a bad shooting day in Sunday’s exhibition opener against Bellarmine, he showed why he’s going to be impossible to keep off the court in Louisville’s 71-55 victory before a KFC Yum! Center crowd of 18,162.
Snider had eight of Louisville’s 17 assists, with only one turnover. He went just 1 of 6 from the field, but if you look at the plus-minus statistics — which aren’t always useful but can shed light at times — he led the team with a plus-29 for the team-high 27 minutes he was on the court.
The Louisville native found open shooters, ran the offense at the needed tempo and played well defensively.
“It takes a while,” Snider said. “When we went to Puerto Rico, I really didn’t know everybody yet and what they could do. But now, like tonight I knew I could go opposite and find Donovan (Mitchell) in the corner for a three, and he knocked them down. So it’s just a matter of team chemistry and figuring each other out.”
The emphasis in this preseason has been getting Lewis acclimated to the true point guard spot. But Pitino said that shouldn’t be taken to mean that Snider isn’t as important as he was last season.
“He didn’t shoot it well today, but he’s been one of the better shooters in practice,” Pitino said. “But he understands the point. Trey is learning the point, Q knows the point. So, you know, those two guys will play a lot together. Basically what I told Q was don’t let starting or not starting bother you. At the end of the year, you will be 1, 2 or 3 in minutes played. And that’s what we’re all about.”
The other big performance for Louisville in its initial exhibition was Jaylen Johnson, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes. A year ago, Johnson played the waiting game while battling in practice with Montrezl Harrell. Now that his time is here, he says he feels well-prepared.
What he did Sunday is what Pitino said he’d been doing the first several weeks of practice, before tailing off. But if Johnson can deliver solid minutes at the power forward spot, the Cardinals are a better offensive team.
“I think he played with awesome energy,” Pitino said. “He got on the floor for loose balls, offensive rebounds, made tough moves.”
The Cardinals’ most effective five were probably Snider and Lewis (who finished with 10 points), Lee, Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku, who had four points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 19 minutes. Freshman Donovan Mitchell hit a pair of late threes to finish with nine points, and freshman Deng Adel added 7. Mangok Mathiang had seven points and 10 rebounds.
The coaches agreed ahead of time that they would just play zone, and Louisville played a switching man-to-man that actually worked well.
Pitino said he was pleasantly surprised by the defense. People who don’t regularly watch Bellarmine may not understand that viewpoint. But the Knights regularly are among the field goal percentage leaders in all three NCAA Divisions, and their ball movement and spacing is as good as you’ll see in the college game. They return 11 starters from a year ago and add a pair of key transfers.
Their three-man, Josh Derksen, could play for a lot of Division I teams, and had 20 points on Sunday.
What Bellarmine couldn’t do was match up with U of L athletically at every position. But the Knights routinely play at least one Division I opponent down to the wire each season, and occasionally beat one. They lost by seven to Cincinnati a year ago, and this game would’ve been much closer had the Knights not, uncharacteristically, missed several front-end free throws in the second half.
“I asked our guys, to a man, ‘Are we better than we were at 1:30 (the game’s start time)?’” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport said. “To a man, they said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ . . . What we learned today was the urgency — especially with our younger guys. I say younger in terms of experience, just the attention to detail and the urgency and it’s hard to simulate that in practice.”
Next up for Louisville is an exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan on Monday, Nov. 9. Bellarmine is at Cincinnati on Nov. 7.
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