There are ever so many things that Rick Pitino does as a mentor that are as good or better than any other member of the coaching fraternity. There are valid reasons other than his sartorial splendor that he’s in the Hall of Fame.
Arguably his best attribute is what he’s been able to do through the years when he’s got enough time to prepare, and the foe has one player who is clearly the team’s star and go to guy and needs to be disenfranchised.
The Rick can fashion a game plan that takes that baller out of his game, out of the ballgame and turns him into a non-factor.
The latest example is State’s Dennis Smith Jr., the best frosh point guard in the land not named Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, or De’Aaron Fox. “A sure first rounder” is what the NBA Draft wags say.
Well, thanks to another boffo game plan and execution, Jr. never got untracked against the Cardinals Sunday afternoon. Hell, he hardly had room to breathe. At the half, his team already down a dozen on its way to a 25 point shellacking, he had but four points on 2/8 shooting.
He had only 6 when the Cards were up 30 at 76-46.
He finished with 8, 11 under his average, on 3/12 shooting. His 6 assists were wiped out by 5 turnovers.
The Cards’ game plan was perfecto. Jr. needed an extra long shower after the loss just to wash off all the Cardinals’ defense.
* * * * *
Smith Jr.’s ineffectiveness wasn’t the only reason Louisville rolled.
The Wolfpack had canned treys on its first two possessions.
At which point, it was as if Donovan Mitchell said to himself, “Self, we are not letting this one get out of hand early.”
So, here’s what happened the next four times the Cards had the ball.
Mitchell trey. Mitchell trey. Mitchell deuce on a follow of his missed three. Mitchell trey.
At the first media timeout, the scoreboard read Donovan Mitchell 11, North Carolina State 9. Though the visitors eventually outscored DM, they never got any closer to Louisville, which increased its lead steadily throughout for the 85-60 W.
And, if we’re sure of The Rick’s ability to shut down singled out opponents, we’re also sure how and when DM should fire from beyond the arc. He was 6/10 from long range for the day. The four he missed all came when he fired off a dribble. The six he made were all catch & shoot, when he was stationary. He missed none of those.
28 points. 8 rebounds, also best in the game. 5 assists. 2 steals.
Thus the yin and yang for Cardinal fans continues. Love how Mitchell is leading and playing. Hate that it may be so good, he’ll be gone after the season.
* * * * *
By the by, the Cards, and not just Mitchell, were even hotter to start the second.
Mangok Mathiang left handed running hook. Then his follow shot for another deuce. A DM drive for two. An Anas Mahmoud slam, on an uncontested slash to the bucket from the top of the key. Deng Adel threeball.
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried — Not a Hall of Famer — was forced to call a timeout two and a half minutes in. To no avail. As if the ACC’s most mediocre coach would have anything pertinent to say to his players.
* * * * *
Some other stuff I loved about the victory.
Louisville’s D. Yet again.
How the Cards intensity totally broke the will of their second foe in a row.
V.J. King’s D, and his 7 boards to complement his 9 points. And the two consecutive dimes to Deng Adel for fast break slams in the second, when the Cards were frolicking, and the Wolfpack were floundering. Oh yeah, his really heady play as a trailer on a fast break, when he followed a miss to put U of L up 64-39.
David Levitch’s oh so solid contributions. As always. His scrappiness. He hit the floor several times for loose balls.
13/15 at the free throw line.
19 assists on 30 made FGs.
The Ladybirds’ new red spangled outfits.
Silent K’s constantly improving offensive panache. MM has all of a sudden found a touch. He was 7/9 around and in the hoop.
Next up: A Saturday/ Monday turnaround at Boston College, then UVa.
— Seedy K