It’s bet­ter in the Ba­hamas for Louisville

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Aaron Beard AP Bas­ket­ball Writer

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.

BIG PIC­TURE

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.”

POLL IM­PLI­CA­TIONS

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’S SHOOTING

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.”

STAT STUFFERS

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.

UP NEXT

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.

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