TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville basketball team dug a 14-0 hole, then scrapped back and played a fearless but flawed game before falling at No. 10 Florida State, 73-68 on Saturday.

In their second game without point guard Quentin Snider, and coming off a late-night game Thursday and a travel day Friday, the Cards started slow but found their legs on defense. They were just one point down with 2:04 left, but did not score again, with poor shot selection down the stretch costing them a chance to steal a win against a Top 10 team on the road.

“We’re a good team,” Pitino said. “They’re a good team. You’ve got two of the better teams in the nation going at it. . . . As a coach, all you can ask for is great effort. I can’t even rate this effort it was so high. We made some mistakes, but you can’t fault guys who play as hard as those guys did.”

It looked like it might get ugly fast after the start Louisville gave up six field goals in the first 3 1/2 minutes to trail 14-0, then gave up just six field goals the rest of the half.

Despite that, the Cardinals could never pull even with Florida State. They got within one point three times, the last with 2:04 left after a Jaylen Johnson dunk. The Cards got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Donovan Mitchell shot a floater from just behind the backboard on the baseline, and Florida State rebounded, making the two free throws after a foul.

U of L got the ball back down three with 1:04 left, but Mangok Mathaing missed the front end of a one-and-one.

The Cards had their chances. They cut it to one with 11 minutes to play, and again after a David Levitch three-pointer with 8:12 left. Deng Adel then stole the inbounds pass, but threw it away and FSU went on a short run to go up six.

Louisville got leadership from some unexpected places. Tony Hicks was a stabilizing presence in the first half and finished with a team-best 16 points. He entered the game with a 14-point deficit and went to work, getting to the basket for some scores to stop the bleeding.

“On defense, they try to take you out of every play you want to run,” Hicks said. “So you just have to drive, and that’s my game, so I just tried to come in and make some good things happen.”

“Tony Hicks played great,” Pitino said. “It helped us to see what he could do. We got a good find in him. He’s about 60 percent to where you want him, and the 40 percent, like at the end of the game. . . . I was contemplating a timeout but we had so much trouble getting the ball in bounds on the sideline, we threw it away once and were life-and-death on another. I felt like he would know what to do. We were running a play to get penetration for a three (he wound up driving for a layup that was blocked).”

Mathiang was the only post player who seemed to be able to do anything against Florida State’s tall and athletic lineup inside, he finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

“About 10 days ago was the fist time I’ve seen him 100 percent,” Pitino said. “You know, typical fan says get him out, get him out. The guy’s coming off a major foot injury, he broke the same foot twice, had two screws in it. So it takes time to come back from something like that. That’s why we’re not going to rush Q back, because what happens is you try to rush him back and he hurts something else because he’s not ready to play.”

And Levitch was solid throughout. But Mitchell, coming off one of his best games at Louisville, struggled until late, finishing with six points on 2 of 10 shooting.

“Donovan counted his misses tonight and it affected his defense,” Pitino said. “But David Levitch is a walk-on and he was brilliant tonight. I didn’t want Donovan to lose his confidence, so I put him back in. But if I had my druthers, I’d have played Levitch over him.”

We couldn’t have played any harder. Because Tony Hicks played great, it helped us tonight to see what he could do. But injuries are part of the game. We’re going to get him back in a couple of weeks. But they would’ve beaten us with him or without him

Florida State had four starters in double figures, led by Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac with 16 points each. The Seminoles shot just 36.7 percent from the game, but made 25 of 36 free throws. Louisville shot 38.5 percent in the game and went 16 of 24 from the line, 2 of 13 from three-point range.

Louisville outrebounded Florida State 43-40, but was able to force only seven turnovers and blocked just four shots to eight for the Seminoles.

The Cards won’t get much time to rest. They’ll travel to Pitt on Tuesday.

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