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Content by MARIA MURPHY / Photo by JEFF McKINLEY– Sports View America ….
An early Saturday tipoff against 3-6 Eastern Kentucky University may just have been the perfect recipe for the Jimmy V hangover cure needed after the #1 Louisville Cardinals suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of a tenacious Texas Tech team.
Louisville head coach Chris Mack was critical of his guards’ play on Tuesday, emphasizing that better play was needed at those positions. In that game, the guards combined for only two assists and seven turnovers. The Cards as a team totaled only ten assists. Today, the Cardinals reached the 10-assist mark with seven and a half minutes to go in the first half, six of those from its guards.
The Cardinals also had their season low in shooting percentage in their loss at 34 percent, fourteen percent below their season average of .481. Back home, against one of the nation’s worst defenses, it was important for Louisville to trend back higher.
From the onset, it was obvious Louisville was trying to be more patient in the offense. Quick shooting was a major pain point in their last game but today the Cardinals seemed to be making an effort to make the extra pass in the early possessions.
Preseason All-American Jordan Nwora had an almost perfect first half. He had two one-handed dunks, one on a fast-break and the other driving through traffic. He also had one particularly spectacular play where he knocked a ball out of the hands of a Colonel’s player, followed it as it rolled across the court, picked it up behind the three-point line, turned and made the shot. He finished the half with 17.
Junior back-up center Malik Williams closed the half in style, getting a rebound then successfully shooting, all while falling away from the basket. At the half, the Cards held a comfortable lead at 50-32.
The Cardinals also took care of business in the second half. There were a few sloppy possessions, but Louisville was able to extend its large lead. Nwora and freshman forward Samuell Williamson both completed old-fashioned three-point plays, driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
As has become customary when the Cards have a big lead, at the end of the game Coach Mack sent in five freshmen to finish. The newcomers outscored the Colonels 10-7 in the final three minutes.
The home crowd wanted its team to score 100 but instead freshman David Johnson dribbled out for a 99-67 victory.
It was a big day for the Cardinal front court. Senior center Steven Enoch scored his season-high of 23, on nine-of-ten shooting. Williams and senior “warrior” Dwayne Sutton both finished with 11 points. Nwora led all scorers with 26. The four big men also combined for 25 of the team’s 35 rebounds.
The guard play wasn’t perfect. There is still work to be done on breaking a press. Junior starting point guard Darius Perry had to burn a timeout midway through the first half after getting trapped. About eight minutes later he also got called for a carry which caused Mack to slam his clipboard in frustration. Later grad student Fresh Kimble lost his dribble on a weak drive under the basket for a turnover. Johnson turned it over three times.
But there was improvement. Starting senior shooting guard Ryan McMahon had six assists and only one turnover, along with seven points. The backcourt combined for 13 assists and eight turnovers (the team in total finished with 23 and 16). Johnson also saw his most court time of the season with 17 minutes.
The Cardinals have one more non-conference matchup at home versus Miami of Ohio on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. After that, the schedule intensifies with its annual rivalry game at Kentucky, followed by the full conference schedule beginning with Florida State.
Side note: UofL’s football coaching staff was introduced during the under four-minute media timeout in the first half. Head coach and ACC Coach of the year, Scott Satterfield, appeared to get a little emotional during his standing ovation. He encouraged fans to buy tickets to their upcoming Music City Bowl on December 30 in Nashville