Louisville played well, particularly on defense, and improved to 9-1 on the season with a 22-point win, 78-56, against Western Kentucky on Saturday. But the headlines from the game, and the main talking point for Rick Pitino afterwards, are focused mostly on the loss of center Mangok Mathiang to a foot injury.
Pitino told reporters after the game that Mathiang broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot and is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks in recovery, which will include getting a screw inserted in his foot.
Mathiang is not one of Louisville’s primary scorers (averaging just over seven points per game so far this season), but according to Pitino he’s one of the team’s best physical players and his teammates cited his leadership in the wake of the injury.
“It’s be a big blow because he’s a captain and one of the leaders of the team,” Chinanu Onuaku said of Mathian, via the Associated Press.
Onuaku will be one of the players that sees more time as a result of Mathiang’s absence. He responded on Saturday afternoon with his first double-double of the season, recording 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Part of Louisville’s focus on the injury after the game came as a result of poor play by Western Kentucky. The Cardinals did play well defensively, but the Hilltoppers did not shoot the ball well at all (22-for-53 from the field, 2-for-18 on three-pointers and 10-for-20 from the free throw line), and the outcome was rarely in doubt after Louisville took a 34-16 lead into the locker room.
The Cardinals only loss of the year was by four points against undefeated Michigan State and the defensive efficiency numbers on the year have been fantastic, but the competition ramps up next week with the Kentucky game on Dec. 26 and ACC play starting in January. This schedule has worked out well for a Louisville team that needs to gel with a pair of graduate transfers and now an injury to one of its most experienced players, so check back on the Cards in a few weeks to see where they stand in the ACC pecking order.