Louisville vs Indiana recap: 3 things we learned

Dec 21, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Deng Adel (22) reacts after time expired in the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Kentucky 73-70. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Deng Adel (22) reacts after time expired in the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Kentucky 73-70. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday’s matchup between top 20 teams Louisville and Indiana taught us a few things. Here’s what we learned from it.

In an up-and-down affair at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Louisville came out well on top. Louisville ran out to a double digit 1st half lead on the strength of their defense, and fought off a second half Indiana surge to win the game 77-62. Defense trumped offense, as Louisville’s #1 defense helped the Cardinals come away with a comfortable win.

Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s ACC-Big 10 slugfest

Louisville figures out a way to score in the halfcourt – for a game, at least

A game after scoring just 77 points per 100 possessions in half-court possessions (a mark that would be dead last in adjusted offensive efficiency in the country), Louisville managed posted a mark of 127 points per 100 possessions today. They also did quite well in transition, managing a point per possession for an overall mark of 1.18 points per possession.

While the Cardinals typically try to make their hay in transition – a good strategy for the pressing, #1 defense in the country – a showing like Saturday’s has to be encouraging for the Cardinals. While it can hardly be said Indiana poses an extremely tough challenge on defense – they were ranked 55th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom before the game today – they are an athletically gifted team who can pose serious problems with their length. Louisville did an excellent job attacking the weak points in the defense, and had some excellent individual showings from some players who had been struggling on the offensive end. They also hit 8 of their 19 three point attempts, good for 42.1%. Louisville has now posted 3 games in their last four with a 3 point field goal percentage above 40%. The Cardinal faithful are certainly hoping this mini-renaissance bodes well for the rest of the season.

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Pitino’s lineup shakeup works out

Coach Rick Pitino changed up his starting lineup for the game today, inserting V.J. King, Ray Spalding, and Anas Mahmoud into his starting five (as a combination) for the first time, while shifting Donovan Mitchell – the team’s 2nd leading scorer – into a bench role. Mitchell has been struggling with his shot, hitting just 28.8% of his 3’s this year, and Pitino felt the change could help him mentally.He certainly pulled the right strings right this time. Mahmoud’s presence on the defensive end, especially, had a huge effect on the game. Indiana’s guards seemed tentative when driving, often passing up seemingly open layup attempts to kick out for 3, especially in the first half. Mahmoud finished with 3 blocks and a number of ‘intimidations’ – an Indiana team that normally makes 65% of its shots at the rim only hit 14 of 27 in close. His anticipation, timing, and positioning for his interior contests were excellent throughout the contest. Mahmoud also played an outstanding game on the offensive end, scoring 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting to tie his season high.

Donovan Mitchell also had himself a game, leading the Cardinals in scoring with twenty five points – a career high – on 8 of 15 shooting. He continuously attacked the basket both in transition and the half-court, drawing fouls and going for layups. Mitchell also displayed an increased confidence and improved stroke on his deep balls, going 4 of 8 from behind the arc. Time will tell if the lineup change is permanent, but it worked quite well for this matchup against a fellow top 20 team.

Indiana has a turnover problem

Coming into today’s game, Indiana already had one of the worst marks in the country on turnover percentage – per KenPom, their offense turned the ball over on 21.8% of their possessions (good for 308th in the country). Today definitely didn’t help, as Indiana committed a number of poor turnovers, especially in the first half, with bad passes, ill-advised dribbles, and a lack of attention. While the Louisville defense certainly contributed, it didn’t appear that a huge percentage of them were forced – Indiana was just careless. The team finished with 14 turnovers on 65 possessions.

It’s just about the only thing Indiana does poorly on offense – they’re top 10 in effective field goal percentage, 2 point field goal percentage, 3 point field goal percentage, and offensive rebounding. But it’s a problem that could undo their season – they’ve already played 8 games in which they’ve had more turnovers than assists. It’s a characteristic, along with their reliance on 3 point shooting (they take 40.6% of their attempts from 3, 78th highest in the country) that will make them more prone to upsets come postseason. It’s something coach Tom Crean, and his players, will have to try and clean up by the time the games REALLY matter.