It’s better in the Bahamas for Louisville
Louisville added a late-night wrinkle to its defense, ran out to a big lead and hung on to earn a trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.
Donovan Mitchell made two 3-pointers in the final 4 ½ minutes and scored 14 points to help No. 10 Louisville beat Wichita State, 6252, on Thursday.
Quentin Snider also scored 14 points for the Cardinals (5-0). They locked down defensively in the first half, then turned away the Shockers’ second-half comeback.
Playing on a short turnaround after Wednesday’s overtime victory over Old Dominion, Louisville showed some match-up zone in the first half for a different look against an offense that had was averaging 91 points. Coach Rick Pitino said his staff had about 55 minutes to teach it to this season’s group.
“The thing I like about our team right now is they are flexible,” Pitino said.
Wichita State shot just 27 percent (7 of 26) and managed 17 first-half points, allowing Louisville to take charge and play from in front all afternoon.
“We just wanted to confuse them as much as possible,” Mitchell said, “and we did that very well.”
Trailing 33-17 at the half and by 16 with about 14 minutes left, Wichita State (5-1) hit three straight 3-pointers to get back in it and twice got within six. But the Cardinals repeatedly came up with timely offensive rebounds or baskets to keep control.
Wichita State shot just 32 percent for the game, while Louisville — which shot 37 percent — helped itself by making 17 of 23 free throws and taking a 46-33 rebounding advantage.
“We saw a different defense than what we’ve been seeing, a very good matchup zone,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “And we didn’t attack it very well. We didn’t get the ball inside enough.”
Markis McDuffie and Shaquille Morris each scored 10 points for the Shockers.
Louisville: Pitino was concerned about the roughly 14hour turnaround between the Cardinals’ opener in Atlantis and Thursday’s second-round game. But the Cardinals handled it just fine, frustrating the highscoring Shockers defensively and controlling the glass as Wichita State tried to rally.
Wichita State: The highscoring offense went cold for the first time this year. The Shockers had shot 51 percent through the first five games but struggled to knock down their looks against Louisville’s defense.
“They certainly took it to us in the first half,” Marshall said. “We faced our first adversity of the year in a regular-season game and it didn’t go so well.”
Louisville’s win against a team with five straight NCAA Tournament trips certainly won’t hurt its standing in the AP Top 25 , and the Cardinals could rise by completing an Atlantis title run.
As for Wichita State, the Shockers are among teams receiving votes and could make a case to sneak in if they can bounce back with a win in the third-place game against a ranked foe.
Mitchell scored all 15 of his points Wednesday after halftime against Old Dominion, then came up with the two big 3s Thursday to keep Louisville in control: one from the right corner at the 4:10 mark and one from the left at 3:17.
Still, Pitino keeps playfully needling the sophomore about his shot selection. After the ODU game, he said Mitchell treated the first half like a game of H-OR-S-E by trying to take the toughest shot possible. And Thursday?
“He’s not showing his shooting yet but he’s a great shooter,” Pitino said after Mitchell made 5 of 13 shots. “I’d like him to just back off a few of the Kobe moves and stepbacks and just play.”
Louisville had six players pull down at least seven rebounds, including Mitchell (eight) and Snider (four) from the backcourt. In addition, 7-foot reserve Anas Mahmoud had season-highs of five points and five rebounds to go with a careerbest six blocks.
Louisville: The Cardinals advanced to Friday’s championship game to face No. 20 Baylor, which beat No. 24 Michigan State in Thursday’s first game.
Wichita State: The Shockers will face No. 24 Michigan State in Friday’s third-place game.