CRAWFORD | King, getting more comfortable on the court, leads Lo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | King, getting more comfortable on the court, leads Louisville past William & Mary 91-58

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Louisville freshman V.J. King scored 17 points in Monday's win over William & Mary. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville freshman V.J. King scored 17 points in Monday's win over William & Mary. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Louisville freshman V.J. King talks to during Monday's win. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville freshman V.J. King talks to during Monday's win. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before he ever set foot on the court for the University of Louisville basketball team, V.J. King was an MVP for the Cardinals.

He was the guy who stayed, the five-star prospect who wasn't deterred by the four-alarm scandal and resulting NCAA mess surrounding the program a year ago. He signed on the dotted line without being sure what might come next for the Cardinals, providing a silver lining and some hope to a fan base in need of good news.

Once on campus, King was rewarded by Louisville coach Rick Pitino by being thrown into the deep end of college basketball -- more defense than he could absorb, more offensive fundamentals than he could remember. It actually was a good thing for King. Pitino doesn't do that unless he thinks you can play -- and quickly.

On Monday night, in his second college game, King demonstrated why Pitino had such faith. He came off the bench to score 17 points in 17 minutes, making 6 of 10 shots and pulling down five rebounds in the No. 13-ranked Cardinals' 91-58 win over William & Mary at the KFC Yum! Center.

"It was a big difference from Friday night," King said, talking about his 14-minute stint against Evansville in the Cardinals' season opener, in which he scored six points, all from the free-throw line. "Every game you figure it out a little more. Every practice, really. It's just a matter of knowing what you're doing and trying to do it better."

King went 3-for-3 from three-point range, but said it was his defense that gave him that opportunity.

"That's what's going to keep me on the court -- or keep me off if," King said of his defensive performance, which included the first steal of his career.

Pitino was ecstatic with the victory. He had been hyping William & Mary for a month. The Williamsburg, Va., school is the second-oldest university in America and produced three U.S. Presidents and four signers of the Declaration of Independence. But to hear Pitino talk about it, you'd think it had produced just as many NBA Draft picks.

"I know because it is a lopsided victory, you may not understand this, but I bet you that team is the toughest team that we will have to prepare for all season because of the way they play," Pitino said. "They can put four shooters on the floor at any time. They back-door you to death. They are like Notre Dame shooting the ball and the old Georgetown teams with the back door. They are very difficult to guard.

"Today, we had the best walk-through that we have had in two years here. The focus was amazing because of the amount of respect that our guys had for William & Mary. . . . We played terrific defense tonight. We did a really good job of putting the pressure on and not fouling. . . . So I am really proud of our guys."

Pitino was just as happy with what King showed him -- specifically, that he could step out and play in the shooting guard spot along side Deng Adel, not just in the power forward slot behind him.

"I'm just trying to get his feet wet," Pitino said. "This is a very difficult game for him to guard. He gets a little tired out there.  . . . The thing I found out tonight is that Deng and V.J. can play together. That's the most important thing, and it gives you great length. (King) is very aggressive offensively. He's got a great first step. He's getting much more confident because of the thousands of shots he's taken. He's a really good basketball player. He's overwhelmed with how many things are being thrown at him right now and each game you can see it. He's not thinking as much, he's just playing, and tonight was indicative of that."

Adel bounced back from a subpar offensive opener himself, scoring a career-high 16 points for the Cardinals after finishing with just six points on 1-of-8 shooting against Evansville. Adel did a little of everything, contributing five rebounds, a career-high five assists and a career-high four steals in 27 minutes.

For the Cardinals to be the kind of team they think they can be, Adel is going to have to produce along those lines consistently. If King can approximate his contribution from Monday night on a consistent basis, the team can do even more.

Adel's offensive start, again, was a bit slow, but a couple of fouls and five straight free throws helped him find the range.

"It shouldn't take that," Adel said. "But it is nice to see a shot go in. But I know there's a lot of things I can do to help this team, and my main focus needs to be on them."

Late in the first half, Louisville used a flurry of defense to stretch a three point lead to 13 at halftime, and pushed that margin to 20 in the opening minutes of the second half to take control.

William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said that spurt "turned the game completely . . . we just unraveled. I'll give them a lot of credit for that. Their pressure -- I used to be a pressure coach -- it takes its toll on you as a team as the game goes on a little bit. Our execution the last two minutes of the half was terrible. . . . Their ability to defend, their athletes and their pressure were big reasons our execution wasn't where it should have been."

The Cardinals blocked 11 shots -- their second straight double-figure block game, which was the first time they've done that since 2010. They also collected 10 steals and dished out 21 assists with only nine turnovers, the first time they've had at least 20 assists with single-digit turnovers since March of 2014.

Louisville got 13 points and four assists from Quentin Snider and 13 points with nine rebounds from Jaylen Johnson. Mangok Mathiang had 10 rebounds and five blocks, while Donovan Mitchell had nine points and four blocks. Ray Spalding finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting.

The Cards will return to action quickly, playing host to Long Beach State on Thursday afternoon in a game that was moved to 4 p.m. to accommodate a football game at Houston that night.

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