Things got off to a rough start for Louisville’s men’s basketball team in its recent tour of Puerto Rico, as the Cardinals were beaten in five straight contests between August 11 and August 13.
Fortunately for Rick Pitino’s young squad, they came together for victories in their final two contests of the tour on August 14 and 15.
Senior graduate transfer Trey Lewis scored 21 points and Mangok Mathiang added 19 points in an 84-81 Louisville triumph on August 14, with the Cardinals out-rebounding their Puerto Rican counterparts 45-30. The Cardinals overcame a double-digit deficit to get the triumph. Two more Cardinals — Damion Lee and Chinanu Onuaku — scored in double figures in the win. Lee scored 16 points, while Onuaku tallied 11 points. Defensively, U of L held the Puerto Ricans to 39 percent shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers.
Lee scored 28 points in the final game August 15 — a 77-72 Cardinals’ victory. Louisville shot a healthy 54 percent from the floor in the victorious final contest of the tour. Mathiang and Quentin Snider were also in double figures in the finale, with 10 points each. Louisville’s solid shooting helped the Cardinals overcome a whopping 26 turnovers.
Another cause for concern, despite the victory, was the fact that U of L shot just 66 percent (19 of 29) from the free throw line. But regardless of the final scores, and the 2-5 final record the team produced in the exhibitions, the Puerto Rico trip was a solid test for Louisville’s young squad.
The Cardinals’ players, coaches, and fans saw that its two transfer newcomers, Lewis and Lee, have the makings of top scorers and team leaders. They saw that several returning players and newcomers have quite a bit of work to do to become major college contributors. And they saw many of the things they’ll have to work on as a group in order to be successful this coming season in the ACC.
All in all, while the wins could have been more plentiful, the trip couldn’t have gone much better for Louisville as far as gaining invaluable experience and team chemistry together, which should only serve them once they start playing games for real in a couple months.