Indianapolis — Mangok Mathiang scored 18 and Deng Adel added 16 to help second-seeded Louisville pull away from Jacksonville State, 78-63, in the first round of the Midwest Regional on Friday.
The Cardinals (25-8) have won five straight opening-round games. Louisville was making its first postseason appearance since 2015 after sitting out last year because of a one-year, school-imposed postseason ban for alleged recruiting violations.
Norbertas Giga scored 30 for 15th-seeded Jacksonville State (20-15), which was one of a record five teams making their first tourney appearance.
And it was a bigger challenge than most expected.
But after trailing for the first 13 minutes, the Cardinals finally took the lead with an 8-2 late in the first half. They closed the half on a 9-4 spurt then opened the second half on 10-2 run to make it 48-33. Louisville led by double digits most of the rest of the game.
The Cardinals made it clear Thursday they had no intention of going home early after losing in the ACC tournament opener last week.
And once Louisville seized control, they made sure they would be back in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Jacksonville State committed 14 turnovers but looked out of sync most of the second half.
Still, the Gamecocks refused to let Louisville completely run away. A 7-0 run cut the deficit to 10 midway through the second half and a banked 3-pointer from Malcolm Drumwright made it 61-52 before Louisville finally put it away. Drumwright finished with 12 points.
Quentin Snider had 16 points for Louisville. Ray Spalding added 11 points for the Cardinals and Donovan Mitchell had nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Cardinals are seeded second for the third time in tourney history and won national titles each of the two previous times. It’s too early to start contemplating how far this run could go. But Louisville has won by 15-point margins in each of its two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.