Friday marked the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, and team’s played all across the country played their season openers. There were some upsets across the nation, but the Louisville Cardinals weren’t one of the teams to go down. They dominated the Samford Bulldogs all game long despite people assuming that the allegations surrounding the program would loom over the game.
The first half was all Cardinals, all the time. Despite star Damion Lee getting in early foul trouble, the Cardinals controlled the Bulldogs with ease. Chinanu Onuaku looked like the first round pick everyone expects him to be as he had seven points, three rebounds, and two blocks in the first half. Mangok Mathiang provided a defensive boost off the bench with three blocks himself, while Jaylen Johnson received a surprise start but provided a nice spark with some dunks. However, the most impressive stat from the Cardinals in the first half was how they scored 48 points without Lee contributing a single point of it. Christen Cunningham scored 12 first half points and went 8-8 from the free throw line for the Bulldogs as he did his best to keep them in the game, but it was all for naught.
There weren’t many bright spots in the first half for Samford as they went 7-33 from the field, but they did go 12-12 from the free throw line.
The second half was still all Cardinals. However, this time everyone got to see the offensive juggernaut that is Damion Lee. He scored 14 points and was making shots everywhere on the court. He knocked down long range bombs, drove the lane to finish tough layups, and threw down some nasty slams. The Cardinals were able to show how deep of a team they are, and how good the freshman are this year. Donovan Mitchell played great in his career debut as he scored 14 points and showed that he can be a major factor defensively by leading the team with three steals.
The Bulldogs just couldn’t contain a single Louisville player, and the Cardinals were too much for them to handle. Samford was not helped by the fact that they managed to shoot a meager 21% over the course of the game while having to deal with Louisville's stifling defense.
Player of the game: Chinanu Onuaku
Despite not leading the team in points, he was the best player on the court tonight. He proved that he can guard multiple positions and rebound with the best of them. He scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds, swatted five blocks, and went a perfect 5-5 from the floor. If he continues to play like this, he could contend for ACC Defensive Player of the Year.