(WAVE) - The first season of the Chris Mack era has ended at the University of Louisville, and on paper, the body of work was probably about what we thought it was going to be.
20 wins? Check.
Exceed the experts' expectations in ACC play? Check.
NCAA Tournament appearance? Check.
In Thursday's first game of the NCAA Tournament, however, the Cards couldn't hang with a bigger, longer Minnesota team from the Big Ten. Coached by Richard Pitino, son of Hall of Fame and former UofL coach Rick Pitino, the Gophers held off a late Cards rally for the 86-76 win.
Minnesota will advance to play the winner of the Michigan State-Bradley game on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
In his final college game, UofL senior Christen Cunningham led the Cards with 22 points, one shy of his season-high.
Minnesota freshman guard Gabe Kalschauer, entering the game averaging 10 points per game, led all scorers with 24 points. Teammated Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy, the team's top two scorers, added 18 apiece.
The Gophers game into the game not known as a big three-point threat, but made 11-of-27 shots from beyond the arc, a respectable 41 percent. Kalschauer made five of them on 11 attempts.
Top scorer Jordan Nwora was relatively quiet on the offensive end for the Cards, finishing with 10 points on four-of-10 shooting. His 11 rebounds led all players.
The teams stayed close in the first half; UofL's largest lead was three points with about eight minutes left. Minnesota led by seven at two different points later in the half.
The Gophers opened the second half on a 12-5 run, stretching their lead to 50-38 and generally taking control of the game.
Kalschauer's three free throws at the 9:48 mark gave the winners a 19-point cushion, and the Cards could never recover. Louisville closed to within 76-69 with 2:05 left, but Minnesota made 10 of its final 11 free throws down the stretch to hold off the favored Louisville team.
The Cards finished their season at 20-14 overall and 10-8 in the ACC, tied for sixth place in the nation's best conference, when experts projected UofL to finish in the bottom half of the 15-team league.
A 20-win season is always a nice accomplishment, but how the Cards got there had fans scratching their heads late in the season. Entering Thursday’s game, UofL had gone 3-7, including several losses to ACC heavyweights in which Louisville coughed up second-half leads.