It was certain to be an odd evening inside the KFC Yum Center, but David Padgett and his Louisville Cardinals made certain that the final score would be familiar.
Anas Mahmoud scored 20 points on 10 of 11 shooting as U of L rolled to a 101-64 exhibition victory over Kentucky Wesleyan in its first exhibition game of the post-Rick Pitino era.
Outside of the pregame introductions and the faces at the front of the home team’s bench, for the first time in a long time, things felt almost normal Monday night. The team played with great energy, the newcomers showed off their skillsets, and the veterans showed the areas where they’ve improved.
Ultimately, Louisville won its 34th consecutive exhibition game and drove home the fact that, despite everything, 2017-18 still has a chance to be a whole hell of a lot of fun.
Here’s the final box score followed by some additional thoughts:
—Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding should always dominate a frontcourt like Kentucky Wesleyan’s, but it was still comforting to see them actually do it. Anas especially looks like a changed man. When you watch him on the court, his transformation from hesitant role player to offensive focal point/captain/second coach on the floor is very apparent. If U of L turns this overly negative situation into a positive over the next four months, my guess is Anas will have had as much to do with it as anyone.
—Anas also took an extremely ugly fall in the second half that was damn near Luke Whiteheadian. Somehow, he laughed it off and was back on the floor a few minutes later.
—Deng and Quentin are as advertised and will be rocks this year. V.J. still looked too much like he did a year ago, but I’m not going to read too much into one 40-minute exhibition. He’ll have ample opportunity to emerge in the season’s first few weeks, he just has to make it happen.
—I now expect Louisville to score at least 100 points in every game of the David Padgett era. I will not settle for less and neither should you.
—In love with Darius Perry’s game. He’s a tremendous passer and a pitbull on the defensive end.
—If there was one negative, it was that the Cards gave up too many uncontested points at the rack. Sometimes it was because of confusion, sometimes it was because no one boxed out, and other times it was because guys just got beat. That’s going to have to be improved, because you’re not going to be able to “out-big” a lot of teams on this year’s schedule.
—Getting Dwayne Sutton (initially) as a walk-on was an absolute steal. Kid would be known as one of the best mid-major players in the country right now if he’d stayed at Asheville. Instead, he’s going to make a name for himself nationally as a surprise key for a top 20 Louisville team. He’s much stronger than he was when he was earning Big South Tournament MVP honors a couple years ago, and he looked (at least on this night) to be a much better shooter. He’s also just as athletic, which is a great thing.
—I love that Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams don’t hesitate to launch from deep when they’re open. They may have been a bit too jittery to hit at a high clip tonight, but that will pass.
—Bellarmine will be a better test for these guys next week. The Knights will abuse you if you’re lost on defense, and they shoot it much, much better than Wesleyan does.
—I am so damn happy that we’re talking about this and not board meetings or lawsuits or press releases ... or Peter Sirmon’s defense. Let’s make the most of the time we have with this group and this season.