Jacksonville State opened its round of 64 matchup in Indianapolis against Louisville on a 10-2 run. The Cardinals took over from there.
The Gamecocks simply had no answers for Louisville's size, athleticism and staunch defense in a 78-63 loss. Even on an off day for Louisville leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, who didn't score in the first half and finished with just nine points, the Cardinals were dominant, getting strong performances from Mangok Mathiang (18 points, two blocks), Deng Adel (16 points) and Quentin Snider (16 points, five assists).
Norbertas Giga was unstoppable for Jacksonville State, scoring 30 points and adding nine rebounds. He shot an impressive 11-of-13 from the field and hit all five of his three-point attempts.
The Gamecocks deserve credit for battling throughout. They shot 50 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc, keeping things interesting even as Louisville was able to keep them at an arm's length in the second half. It was a testament to Louisville's talent that they won by a convincing margin against Jacksonville State despite the team's strong shooting performance.
Louisville certainly showed why they are a 2-seed and legitimate title contender, controlling the boards (36-23) and providing definitive moments of dominance like this Anas Mahmoud block, per NCAA March Madness:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
Anas Mahmoud with the rejection! #MarchMadness https://t.co/0W4qd56IEy2017-3-17 20:46:31
The Cardinals were dangerous on the fast break, too:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
Louisville with the sweet bounce pass! #MarchMadness https://t.co/hefDjFTP1j2017-3-17 20:26:32
Finally, this latest alley-oop put the finishing touches on a strong showing:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Too easy for Louisville! #MarchMadness https://t.co/7SbwDB4iia2017-3-17 21:09:07
Up next for Louisville is a tough matchup against 7-seed Michigan on Sunday in the round of 32. The Wolverines are red hot, having won six straight games, including a Big Ten tournament title. If Louisville plays like it did on Friday and Mitchell regains his scoring touch, however, the Cardinals will be tough to beat.
After the contest, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was full of funny anecdotes and colorful sound bytes.
He praised Mitchell for providing 10 rebounds and five assists despite lacking a shooting touch and noted that Mangok played well on offense but nearly put Giga into the NBA on the defensive end. He added that his team was so inexperienced that one of the players didn't recognize CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson and accused her of stealing plays out of the huddle, and compared Michigan to the Golden State Warriors following their torrid shooting performance against Oklahoma State.
You can see his those comments below, via Louisville Athletics:
Louisville Athletics @GoCards
🎥 Coach Pitino, Donovan Mitchell, and Mangok Mathiang spoke at today's postgame press conference. Listen in... #MarchMadness https://t.co/VW3679A2w02017-3-17 22:28:08
Ray Harper, meanwhile, praised the performance from his Gamecocks, per JSU Men's Basketball:
JSU Men's Basketball @JSU_MBB
"Really proud of these guys today. I think the nation got a chance to see how hard they play." - Ray Harper https://t.co/SDZwY4UpWe2017-3-17 21:28:07
Pitino echoed that sentiment.
"I want to congratulate Jacksonville State," he noted, per Eric Crawford of WDRB. "They never stopped. We kept relentless pressure on them. I’m very happy for Ray."
Indeed, Jacksonville State played as well as could have been expected. Louisville was simply too good. In the Pitino era, that's become a familiar theme.