In the 2015-16 season, Damion Lee has been everything Louisville fans hoped he would be and more. A graduate transfer from Drexel, he ranked fifth in the nation with 21.4 points per game for the Dragons last season and has absolutely jump-started the Cardinals’ offense to the tune of a team-best 16.6 points per game so far, providing plenty of versatility in coach Rick Pitino’s fast-paced offense and making it seem like last year’s top scorer Terry Rozier never left.
And Lee’s ability to form a 1-2 scoring punch with fellow graduate transfer Trey Lewis, formerly of Cleveland State, has Louisville at 13-3 (2-1 ACC) and at No. 21 in the rankings. More importantly, Lee will need to have turn in an excellent performance on Thursday when No. 20 Pittsburgh pays a visit to the KFC Yum! Center and looks to be the first team to knock off Louisville at home this season.
Pitt certainly will have plenty of tape to watch of how to slow down Lee, as he turned in his worst performance of the season last weekend against unranked Clemson. He shot 2 of 12 from the field and missed all seven of his attempts from long range, finishing with just six points in Louisville’s 64-60 loss. Given how Pitt’s system is all about strong on-ball defense and playing more of an isolation game, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if coach Jamie Dixon had his players take a page from Clemson’s book and employ the same strategy to slow Lee down, making him force his shots and not getting any clean looks at the basket.
That is exactly why Lee needs to be more than just a scorer on Thursday nights. Instead of the jumper, he should focus on the layup and drawing a foul. Instead of trying to do everything by himself, he should trust Lewis and other teammates like Chinanu Onuaku and Quentin Snider. Instead of looking to take control of the game from the beginning, he must let control of the game come to him.
Yes, Lee is the shooter that Pitino said he needed for the 2015-16 season after Louisville lost to Michigan State in the Elite Eight of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but offense alone does not a champion make. Rather, it is a balance of everything that helps take a team forward to the next level.
Which is why it is so important that Lee not make the same mistakes he made against Clemson. Rather than try and take a shot with a hand in his face, he should aim for more of a high-percentage look or get a teammate involved. If he can’t get open, he shouldn’t force the matter and end up drawing a stupid foul.
Long story short, Lee needs to find the balance that suits him so that when Pittsburgh comes to visit, he’s ready to prove just how much a fluke Clemson defeating Louisville was.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports