Saluting Our Seniors

Photo Courtesy of Kent Taylor

Photo Courtesy of Kent Taylor

“Senior Day” is about celebrating the careers of guys who fans have cheered for four or five years. Guys like Mangok Mathiang. The final member of UofL’s 2013 National Championship team, he was a redshirt that season. Mathiang scored a career-high 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Cards beat No. 19 Notre Dame 71-64 on Saturday. They finished the regular season 24-7, 12-6 in the ACC and head to Brooklyn this week as the No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament. Their first game is Thursday at around 2:30 p.m. Mathiang was suspended for the game at Virginia in early February after missing curfew and as a result had his phone and computer taken away. He also had his captaincy stripped after the incident, but he is now back in the good graces of Coach Pitino.

Was that about as good as you could have hoped for?

Mathiang: I mean for Senior Night, it’s a great way to go out, especially in front of crowds that have always been there for me. For my teammates, whenever we had our struggles, they were always there, so most definitely had to go out with a W.

Was your mindset any different because you came in aggressive?

Mathiang: Just coming in after the first timeout, Coach was on us about just going out and going into the bigs and trying to get Colson in foul trouble and making sure that he could guard down there. I just kind of took that personally and just went out there and just kept attacking the basket.

Did you have a sense that something like this might happen?

Mathiang: To be honest, I was just going with the flow of the game. As the game was going on, moments just kept getting sweeter and sweeter.

As one of the guys with some postseason experience, what are the keys for this team to keep on advancing?

Mathiang: Just have fun with it. A lot of young guys when they go into the tournament, there is so much pressure put into it just because it’s like one loss and you’re going home. You just don’t think about that. You could think about it to get you going, but at the same time, just have fun with it. It’s just one of those college experiences that you’ve got to have. I think all these guys, I think they’re ready for it. Some of them missed out last year, so they’re just hungry to get there.

Have you got your phone and everything else back?

Mathiang: Oh yeah, definitely got it back.

What was it like for you to watch your cousin have a game like that on his Senior Night?

Deng Adel: It’s special, to go out like that as the last game of your career, in front of these great fans. It’s definitely special. I’m just proud of him. He’s been through a lot and he really deserved that.

Was it special for you to watch Mangok Mathiang have a career night like that in his final home game?

Donovan Mitchell: He’s worked so hard and he’s been through so much, especially with the foot injury last year. To come out and just play so well for the team. He’s a hard worker and he’s a big leader on this team.

Was getting the ball inside an emphasis going into this game in particular?

Quentin Snider: The game plan was to give him the ball down low. In the first half, he really carried us, through the whole game. Defensive end, rebounding, communicating.

What are the keys to being successful in the postseason?

Snider: The key is just staying humble. Even when you’re up by like 10, it feels like you’re up by like two. Nobody quits. You’ve got to keep playing until the buzzer goes off.

How much does it add to the ACC Tournament having it in Brooklyn?

Rick Pitino: For me, being a New Yorker and going back to the Barclays Center, I’m curious to see how it turns out. Our fans, we started going with maybe 50 to 100 fans in the Big East – we ended up getting 1,500 people there. New York is the greatest city in the world, best restaurants, best theater, best opera, best social life. It’s just an awesome place. I’ve lived there for a long, long time and still live there. Well, my wife lives there more than I do. We’re not split up, but she loves going back to New York. She loves going back to New York. We’ve had a residence there since my New York days and it’s a special place. New York is the greatest place to visit if you’re a non-New Yorker and if you’re a New Yorker, it’s great because unlike you sick people, they don’t take sports real serious. It’s not their life or their religion. If the Giants lose, they immediately switch and pay attention to something else. There are no Senior Nights like Louisville or Kentucky or Kansas. VT