BOZICH | Louisville starts like 7-seed, finishes on fire, outlasting Miami, 71-66
Down 14 in the first half, Louisville avoided a second homecourt loss in ACC play by rallying in the second half to defeat Miami Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee released its projected Top 16 seeds for the upcoming fun in March. Mark Hollis, the committee chairman, punctuated the preview by advising the best thing to do with the rankings was toss them into the trash.
Here’s why: Louisville started Saturday as the committee’s second seed in the East Regional, the seventh-best team in America.
For more than 25 minutes they played like a seven-seed, instead of No. 7, trailing Miami by as many as 14.
Then the Cardinals finished like a one-seed, popping the Hurricanes with a 13-0 run late in the second half while crackling to a 71-66 victory in the KFC Yum! Center. Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell led Louisville with 18 points.
"Ninety-to-95 percent of teams lose this game because they totally outplayed us," U of L coach Rick Pitino said. "They were the better team ... it was probably our best game of the season as far as showing character."
The Cards' character kicked in over the final 10 minutes. So did their offense and defense. Down 53-48 with 7 ½ minutes to play, the Cardinals got points from four different players during the game-changing surge.
Jaylen Johnson scored inside. Donovan Mitchell splashed in a three-point field goal for the game’s first tie at 6:10. Mangok Mathiang, back from his one-game suspension at Virginia, gave Louisville its first lead by making a pair of free throws at 5:18.
Now the crowd was alive and getting wilder, especially after Deng Adel made a four-point play from the left corner and Mitchell scored again.
Before Miami coach Jim Larranaga could scream for his fourth and final timeout, Louisville had surged from behind 53-48 to ahead 61-53.
Miami was not finished. The Hurricanes scored eight straight in response. But Louisville guard Quentin Snider, who was benched at the start of the second half, made a pair of free throws and a three-pointer to help Louisville win for the 20th time in 25 games. The Cards are also 8-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, tied with Duke for fourth place.
"Good defense, good rebounding, good ball containment, good offense, passing," Pitino said, when asked to explain Louisville's rally.
"They got those second-chance points and we would have preferred they didn't," said Miami coach Jim Larranaga.
This game was a struggle for the home team before Pitino demanded his first timeout. The Cards fell behind 8-0 in the first five minutes. Miami made nearly 52 percent of shots in the first half. Don’t be misled by that number. The Hurricanes were converting better than 70 percent of their attempts for the first 12 minutes.
In the first 20 minutes, the points in the paint statistic looked like a misprint – 22 for Miami, 6 for Louisville. The Cards did not score a single point in transition. Not one.
"If we play the type of defense we played tonight, we'll get knocked out in the first round," Pitino said.
Donovan Mitchell could not make shots, missing four of his first six from distance.
Snider, back from a hip injury, started for the first time since Jan. 14. He played like a guy who had missed practice as well as six games. When the second half began, Snider was no longer in the starting lineup, replaced by Ryan McMahon.
Snider was one of four Louisville starters (V.J. King, Jaylen Johnson and Anas Mahmoud were the other three) who failed to make a field goal in the first 20 minutes.
Snider rallied greatly in the second half. He made back-to-back shots from distance that cut Miami’s lead to 44-43. The Cards had to continue to play uphill. They succeeded because of Snider, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
This game was so outrageous that a fan dressed in a red shirt walked into the Miami huddle during a timeout midway through the first half. He was standing amid the Lady Birds and pizza magnate “Papa” John Schnatter.
Not for long. He was quickly handcuffed, tackled and led out of the arena by police and was later charged with five counts, including assault and disorderly conduct.
"There was a little bit of commotion in our huddle and I glanced up and there was someone there, I believe in red," Larranaga said. "We don't normally wear red."
Maybe the idiot was perturbed that the Cardinals trailed 26-16 and that the Hurricanes were scoring from here, there and nearly anywhere they pleased.
Next for Louisville?
The always intriguing challenge of playing Syracuse and Jim Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone defense at the Carrier Dome. It’s one of two games the Cardinals have with Syracuse over their final six regular-season games.
Syracuse is not great. Syracuse had been hot. The Orange (16-9) carried a five-game winning streak into their game with Pittsburgh Saturday but lost to the Panthers, 80-75.
Pitino said that the Cards need work on their defense.
"We'll have it by the time the tournament starts," he said. "We'll get it. I'm positive of that."
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