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Content by MARIA MURPHY / Photo by JEFF McKINLEY – Sports View America…
The University of Louisville Cardinals opened their regular season at the Yum today with a 78-55 win over the Penguins of Youngstown State. The Penguins faced an uphill challenge before the game even started, entering the game with a 0-21 lifetime record against teams in the top 25. The Cardinals, currently ranked fifth in the AP Poll, started in dominant fashion making its first 11 shots and took an early 14-3 lead.
The Louisville starting five had a size advantage on Youngstown State, and senior center Steven Enoch was a major presence throughout the game. The 6-10 big man made his first four shots, including an impressive hook shot that appears to have improved since last season. Early highlights also included a wide-open three by Ryan McMahon, several baskets by pre-season All American Jordan Nwora, and an alley-oop pass by Darius Perry to freshman Samuell Williamson.
Just when it looked like the first half would be total Cardinal domination, the Penguins made a run with several offensive rebounds and some sloppy play by the Cards. Forward Jamir Thomas grabbed a board and dunked on the follow, and soon after guard Christian Bentley made a diving layup to further cut into the lead. Youngstown State seemed to catch the Cardinals by surprise running a press on their next defensive possession triggering Dwayne Sutton to call a timeout. The Penguins closed out the half with a three at the buzzer by their leading scorer, sophomore guard Darius Quisenberry, cutting the deficit to seven.
Luckily for the home crowd of 14,671, the second half started similar to the first with the Cardinals scoring the first six points. Back-to-back dunks by Nwora caused a quick timeout with the fans finally excited about more than former football standout Lamar Jackson’s highlights on the video board. Sutton, the Cardinal’s gutty senior forward finally made his first basket at the 14:35 mark which extended the Cardinal lead back to seventeen. A flat-footed block by Enoch was followed by four straight points by Nwora, all on mid-range jumpers. Later, a steal and a behind-the back pass from Perry to Nwora for a thundering jam crushed all hopes of a Penguin comeback.
The Cardinal newcomers had mixed results in their first official game at the KFC Yum Center. Fans in the stands were heard comparing Samuell Williamson to Francisco Garcia, the outstanding forward who just last month was elected into the Cardinal Hall of Fame. Williamson’s smooth play on both ends of the court has the fans excited about his future contributions. Quinn Salzinski was a spark off the bench scoring six points on two made three-point shots in just four minutes of play. In contrast, Aiden Igiehon struggled in his limited play with four fouls and zero points. Fresh Kimble continues to get adjusted in his new environment shooting poorly (0-6) but did have five assists.
Chris Mack, in his second year at the helm at Louisville, complained after the game about allowing Youngstown State 19 offensive boards. He knows his team has to get better at grabbing defensive rebounds to be successful. Overall the Penguins outrebounded the Cards 46 to 38. The Cards were able to overcome that deficit by shooting 50.8% for the game, compared to 31.3% by Youngstown State, and leading in the assist category 22-5.
Enoch finished with his second straight double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Starting point guard Darius Perry also had a double-double with ten points and 12 assists. What made Perry’s night even more outstanding, especially in the eyes of his coach, was his one turnover. Coach Chris Mack said that this was the “best game he’s played since I’ve been head coach”. Nwora finished with 21 points and five rebounds, and McMahon with 16 points on four of seven shooting behind the arc.
The Cardinals next game is against Indiana State on Wednesday at 8:00 at the Yum Center. The Sycamores are 0-2 on the season, coming off a low-scoring, close loss against Dayton.