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Content by MARIA MURPHY & Photo by JEFF McKinley – Sports View America ….
A night after fellow MVC Conference member Evansville Purple Aces knocked off the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats, the Indiana State Sycamores came to the home of the #4 ranked Louisville Cardinals. Preseason MVC rankings show a prediction of Indiana State finishing sixth and Evansville eighth this year. Was that reason to believe that another MVC upset of a top-ranked team favored by more than twenty points could happen two nights in a row? It clearly was not reason enough, as the Cardinals took care of business on a chilly Louisville night, winning in dominant fashion 91-62.
The start of the game was almost an exact repeat of the Cards’ previous game against Youngstown State. Louisville won the tip only to immediately turn the ball over on a lazy pass. But Louisville again had early offensive momentum making its first four baskets. The offensive show this time was a junior-to-junior connection, with pre-season All-American Jordan Nwora and Darius Perry combining for ten points and two assists to take a 10-8 lead.
The Cardinals continued their hot offensive start. Senior Dwayne Sutton, who didn’t contribute much the last game, made a three. Indiana’s State senior guard, Christian Williams answered with a three of his own, but Perry immediately countered that with another made three-point shot. That was followed by a two-pointer by Nwora and another three by senior guard Ryan McMahon. The Cards extended the lead to 12, with the score 23-11.
Halfway through the first half, Louisville made its first substitutions of the night with graduate transfer, point guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble and the highly ranked freshman, Samuell Williamson. Almost immediately Kimble had his first of many contributions on the night with a made layup. After allowing a three pointer to Sycamore freshman – and Floyd Central graduate – Cobie Barnes, Williamson again scored on a second-chance dunk followed by a turnaround jumper by Kimble. Forty seconds later Kimble made another three and Louisville extended its lead to 16.
Traditions run deep in Louisville basketball and one of these traditions was on full display this cold Wednesday night. At the under 8:00 media timeout in the first half, a fan favorite from the Freedom Hall days was shown on the video screen. This fan was known to stand on the railings, sometimes even doing handstands, to get the crowd going at big moments. Almost instantly the crowd became aware of who was on the screen and what was about to happen, and as he had been done for many years, the fan led the crowd in the loudest C-A-R-D-S cheer of the night.
The first half came to an end with the Cards leading 47-26, shooting almost 61 percent. This included seven made three-pointers on nine shots.
The second half started with a completely different vibe. Within the first four minutes of the half, six fouls were called. Of those six fouls, five were called on the Cardinals. Between the fourth and fifth foul called, the referees missed what appeared to be an obvious goaltending call on an attempt by Nwora. Indiana State took full advantage of this turn of events and cut the Cardinal lead to eleven.
Cardinal head coach Chris Mack would say later that he had to work to keep his cool during this stretch of time and encouraged his team to do the same. The Cardinals took his advice and were able to turn the momentum back to their team, also aided by the referees. Over the next five minutes seven more fouls were called, five on the Sycamores. Louisville was able to extend the lead to 25 and Indiana State would not threaten again.
Louisville was led again by its superstar Nwora who finished with 23 points. Sutton earned his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Williamson had another good all-around game and finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Fresh Kimble had his best game so far with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. After the game Mack said about Kimble, “I can’t say enough good things about Fresh tonight. Happy for him.”
MVC preseason all-conference first-team selection, Tyreke Key, finished the game with 20 hard-fought points. No other Sycamore finished in double digits. Indiana State, as a team, was held to 34% field goal percentage.
Mack was much happier overall with his team’s efforts tonight, particularly with their defense and rebounding. Regarding the Cards’ defense Mack said, “(we) kept ball out of the lane. Keeping the lane as clean as we did all year”. Mack added that he was “really pleased with how we rebounded. Really good progress from Youngstown State to today.” The Cardinals doubled the Sycamores with a 42-21 rebound advantage
The Cardinals return to the Yum on Sunday with a game against North Carolina Central at 5:00 p.m. The game will be the third straight game aired on the ACC Network.
Author’s Note: A big shout-out to the Presentation Academy Step Team who performed at halftime. The five-member group, and reigning State champion, overcame some technical difficulties to put on an impressive performance appreciated by the crowd of 14,808.