Quentin Snider came off the bench to score 21 points and Chinanu Onuaku added 12 points and 14 boards as No. 16 Louisville went into Raleigh and knocked off N.C. State, 77-72.
The Cardinals were up by as many as 16 points late in the second half but the Wolfpack rallied. They cut the lead to 75-72 after Louisville’s Damion Lee missed a pair of free throws, but Cat Barber missed a driving layup and knocked the rebound out of bounds.
We still don’t really know just how good this Louisville team is. Their only two wins over high major competition came against Wake Forest and N.C. State, and there’s a good chance that neither of those two teams will end up in the NCAA tournament come March. That said, this team feels more promising with each passing game, and it’s not strictly because of the results.
Early in the season, the knock on this group was that they would go as far as Trey Lewis and Damion Lee would carry them, and there is probably some truth to that. Lee is having an all-ACC kind of season. Lewis isn’t that far behind. We know how good those two can be.
The question was whether or not the supporting cast was going to show up, and of late, they have. Snider played the best game of his Louisville career on Thursday night. It wasn’t just the 21 points that he scored, he also played some terrific defense on N.C. State’s star guard Cat Barber, who finished with 20 points but needed 22 shots to get there. Snider hasn’t been a bit inconsistent this season but it is nice to see what he’s capable of doing. Confidence is a beautiful thing.
Onuaku is averaging 10.0 points and 13.0 boards in his last three games. Donovan Mitchell, who sparked the second half comeback against Kentucky and had 18 points and eight boards against Wake Forest, is finally coming into his own. Ray Spalding had 12 points against N.C. State.
The bottom line is this: Rick Pitino’s roster is young, but there are some quality pieces on it that look like they’re starting to come into their own.
Maybe scheduling softly, letting these kids build up some confidence while they won some games, was a smart move after all.