Thursday, December 22, 2016

Snider is Star vs. UK, but Others Shine Bright, Too

Hometown hero Quentin Snider, a junior point guard from Ballard, was the star of stars in Louisville’s 73-70 victory over rival Kentucky in the KFC Yum Center Wednesday night, but there was plenty of praise to spread around.

Snider was the undisputed game MVP with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he had plenty of help, too. It seemed nearly everyone who hit the hardwood for the Cards made some kind of contribution to the much-needed victory.

Let’s start with Deng Adel. Adel saved his best game for the biggest stage with 18 points and six rebounds against UK, including six of six from the free throw line. Both Adel and Snider played all but three minutes, underscoring both their effort and importance to the victory. Much of that time, Adel was harassing the Wildcats’ best player, Malik Monk, into shooting just one of nine from the three-point line after 47 points against North Carolina. If not for Snider’s heroics, Adel would’ve been the headline from this game.

Big man Jaylen Johnson continued to showcase his off-season improvement with 14 points and six rebounds, including a couple of thunderous dunks (although not nearly as thunderous as Bam Adebayo’s rim rattlers). However, Johnson’s biggest play of the game was of the softer variety via a nifty reverse put back of Donovan Mitchell’s miss with only 11 seconds left, giving the Cards a four-point lead.

Speaking of Mitchell, it simply was not his best game. He picked up two early offensive fouls that limited his effectiveness. Mitchell shot only three of 12 from the field and missed an open three-pointer with just over two minutes left and U of L leading by four that might’ve blown the game wide open. He soon redeemed himself by coolly delivering two clutch free throws with nine seconds left to give U of L a three-point margin, meaning the Wildcats had to shoot from deep on their final possession. They missed, but credit UK Coach John Calipari for getting Monk an uncomfortably good look there.

On that last shot, walk-on David Levitch, of all people, had his hand in Monk’s face. Levitch also drew Monk’s second foul earlier in the game, causing the Kentucky sharpshooter to miss a large chunk of the first half. On the flip side, Levitch missed two free throws. Because of those misses, I was surprised Cards’ Coach Rick Pitino went back to him late.

While we’re talking about freebies, how about Ray Spaulding of Trinity shooting four of four from the stripe? Sure, a couple danced around the rim, but they went in and were desperately needed in a game where every point counted. Spaulding probably would’ve been even more impactful if not for foul trouble.

Two other U of L big men contributed without even scoring. Mangok Mathiang grabbed five rebounds, but his biggest play came when he blocked De'Aaron Fox’s runner with just over six minutes left and Louisville clinging to a two-point lead. Anas Mahmoud grabbed a key offensive rebound with 3:42 left, tossing it to Adel before falling out of bounds. Adel then found Johnson for a big dunk and a four-point Cardinal lead.

Tony Hicks and V.J. King both played in the rivalry for the first time. Neither made much of a mark other than giving the starters a rest. They have better days ahead. However, this night belonged to Snider … with a lot of help from his friends.

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