No. 1 Louisville (for now) rips Eastern Kentucky

A little playing time for highly touted David Johnson, the freshman guard from Trinity. Seventeen minutes, in fact, only two fewer minutes than starter Darius Perry. Johnson had five points, six rebounds, two assists and a foul (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Winning makes everything better, as Malik Williams, Jordan Nwora and Darius Perry demonstrate after leaving the game with a 30-point lead (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Let it be known that Eastern Kentucky is a believer in this University of Louisville basketball team. The Cardinals blitzed the Colonels 99-67 in front of 16,000-plus at the KFC Yum Center on Saturday.

“I understand why they are No. 1,” said EKU coach A.W. Hamilton.
“They are really, really good. After losing the other night, they were hungry today. I think they will contend for a national title.”
Not surprising Hamilton and his team were impressed. Louisville shot 63 percent from the field, out rebounded the Colonels 35-24 and had 22 assists. Jordan Nwora led UofL (10-1) with 26 points while Steven Enoch added 23 points and seven rebounds.
“Nwora, he’s an NBA player,” said Louisville native and EKU guard Jacquess Hobbs. “Nwora is really, really good,” said Hamilton.
Nwora made 10 of 14 field goals, all three of his free throws, had seven rebounds and three assists. Much different than his four of 16 effort against Texas Tech.
Eastern (3-7) trailed 21-16 but the Cardinals broke away for a 50-32 halftime lead. This game was never in doubt. The loss was the fourth straight.
“They’ve got veteran guys who understand their roles,” said Hamilton. “They have a little more talent than we have.”
One alarming thing for Louisville was 16 turnovers. Teams seem to want to press the Cardinals and they’ve had some problems. Next up is Miami, Ohio (4-5) here Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. We’ll see if the press still bothers this team.

Milestone win over Texas for Louisville volleyball

Another one of those unexpected experiences, exciting if not euphoric for faithful fans.

A monumental win, in fact, for a University of Louisville women’s team. No one giving this team a chance against a program that had not lost an NCAA  tournament game at home since 2006. Texas has fallen.

The unranked and unseeded UofL women’s volleyball team in the Elite 8 of the championship tourney after defeating second-ranked Texas in a best of five series. One more win and the Cardinals are in the Final Four for the first time ever.

A few nights ago one had caught a college volleyball analyst making her tournament predictions. She had Western Kentucky University making it through the Sweet 16 before losing to Texas. Never bothered to  mention that Louisville was WKU’s opponent.

UofL, however, would wind up being the only team to defeat Western Kentucky this season. The Cardinals did it twice, once during the regular season, and again this week, 3-2, knocking the Hilltoppers out of the tournament.

Texas was considered a shew-in but Cardinals, coached by Dani Busboom-Kelly, had other ideas. Not intimidated by the Longhorns’ lofty rating or the packed 4,000-seat Gregory Gymnasium, UofL would win the first two sets 25-22 and 25-22, drop the next two 25-18 and 25-17, before winning the fifth set 15-12.

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The game was telecast on ESPNU, which cut away mid-game from NCAA competition between Kentucky and Washington. UK, at the time, had just won its first match after losing two. Their disappointed fans would be left hanging out on Twitter for results. UK  would lose 3-1 and head back to Lexington.

Texas Tech gets Louisville’s attention

Gotta respect the opponent, especially when the foe has lost three games in a row, has its back against the wall, and is all juiced up about playing the No. 1 team. One team playing on adrenaline, the other all but resting on its laurels.

University of Louisville basketball entering the fray with a 9-0 record. Never resembling itself in 70-57 loss to Texas Tech in a nationally televised contest. One has to give credit to Texas Tech but has to wonder who couldn’t have handled the Cardinals this night.

Coach Chris Mack aware of leadership issues at guard. Indicating there's a lot of room for improvement, but not conveying confidence that that it's going to happen quickly.

The loss ending a 10-game winning streak for Louisville at Madison Square Garden, an embarrassing defeat in front of the prime time media influencers. Resembling a team from a season ago that was often unable to finish around the rim or make it through the second half.

Jordan Nwora, for example, back to the dazzle and shuffle from the hustle and muscle of the first nine games. Not finishing drives, taking early shots, questionable, awkward shots as well. No stepping up at crucial points, hard to find at crunch time.

Nwora topping his team with 14 points while making only four of 16 shots from the field, and five of seven from the free throw line. The lowest scoring output this season in which he was averaging 21 points per game. Definitely not prepared for that Texas Tech defense, not making himself available often enough on offense.  Not valuing the basketball, oh my, coughing up the ball four different times.

Steven Enoch, the big guy consistently providing reason for caution when he gets the ball, not taking advantage of his brawn around the basket for easy layups. Preferring those difficult shots, the hooks, the jumpers, often favoring for 3-point shots instead of layups (though not this game).  No telling what he going to do when he passes the ball, tallying three turnovers in his latest outing.

Darius Perry, still not comfortable playing point guard, not adept at communicating with his teammates, not necessarily leading from behind but not leading from the point either. Not a great stat line, not with zero assists, six turnovers and four fouls. Erratic and inconsistent.

Coach Chris Mack aware of leadership issues at guard. Indicating there’s a lot of room for improvement, but not conveying confidence that that it’s going to happen quickly.

A weird  feel early on that Louisville wasn’t quite prepared for a scrappy Texas Tech team. Giving up a seven-point lead early, never to aggressively challenge the Red Raiders again.

A bad loss to mediocre team driven by adrenaline, providing a wakeup call and an ugly fall from the No. 1 ranking. Probably better for a loss now than later this month. Chris Mack should have the full attention of his troops for a while. The schedule continues to only become more challenging.

Still Mississippi State in the Music City

By Ed Peak

As a journalist one should never assume anything. Ask questions, check and double check facts. Pretty certain Louisville is playing Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl, December 30 at 4 p.m. (EST). That has been double checked.

Chris Mack is pretty sure Mississippi State will be opponent in the Music City Bowl (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville coach Scott Satterfield was a good 15 minutes into his media briefing Sunday before a reporter told him your playing the Mississippi State. “That doesn’t change anything,” said Satterfield.

Somebody was messing with the SEC bowl picture for sure. One possible suspect, Tennessee AD Phil Fulmer, has been known to change the status quo but he’s not talking about how UT suddenly wound up in the Gator Bowl instead of the Music City Bowl.

Louisville (7-5) and Mississippi State (6-6) are not post season strangers. In 2017, Mississippi State edged the Cardinals 31-27 in the Citrus Bowl. It was quarterback Lamar Jackson’s final game in a Louisville uniform.

  “We get 15 extra practices,” said Satterfield. “We’ll treat the first seven practices like spring ball. Work on fundamentals. Blocking and tackling. Then we’ll start putting in our game plan.”

Satterfield said other than a few bumps and bruises everyone on the roster should be available except Russ Yeast, who is out for an extended period of time after an injury against Syracuse.

Quarterback Micale Cunningham has an ankle problem but should be okay. “We’re excited about playing. Where this group came from winning no conference games to five and finishing second is truly incredible.”

Satterfield was on the road recruiting when he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year last week. “There were a lot of guys that did a great job, Dabo (Swinney) down at Clemson, undefeated two years in a row. Bronco (Mendenhall) at Virginia. All of my assistant coaches all the way down to the grad student coaches and, of course, the players.”

Louisville allows Pitt to hang around before blow out

Coach Chris Mack orchestrated the University of Louisville basketball team to its ninth win against no losses. That’s Jordan Nwora slamming one home in the top photo (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Knew it wouldn’t take long. Pittsburgh came into the KFC Yum! Center Friday with every intention of knocking off No. 1 Louisville, leaving empty handed with a 64-46 loss. Anything but easy for the home teram

Malik Williams gets in on the dunking circus with one of his on in the first half. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The University of Louisville basketball team (9-0, 2-0) let a big lead slip away, allowing Pitt to get within 43-38 with 12:58 to play. But, as Pitt Coach Jeff Capel would note, “There is a reason they are No. 1.”

One of those reasons, defense. Louisville closed the game with a 17-4 run. It helped the Cardinals held Pitt to its season low point total.

Jordan Nwora led with 19 points, six rebounds and two assists. Every Louisville player had a 3-point basket in the first half. Nwora was the last to join that club just before intermission.

“I’ll bet Jordan didn’t even care,” said Ryan McMahon, who added 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. “Not only do we have a bunch of weapons. We’ve got a bunch of unselfish guys.”

And Nwora is just fine, thanks, after mysteriously hitting the floor in the second half, returning a few minutes later with a crushing dunk.

Louisville had 17 assists on 23  baskets. That’s a sign players are getting the ball to their teammates in the right position.

Malik Williams added 13 points and 11 rebounds in his best game since returning from an injury. “I’m healthy, just getting back into the flow, learning,” said Williams.

Dwayne Sutton only took four shots but had five rebounds and five assists and a blocked shot.

Louisville now readies itself for a Tuesday night game in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden against last season’s NCAA runnerups, Texas Tech (5-3). “You can tell when you walk into the place. The history. I played there against Memphis I believe two years ago. We’re real excited about it,” said McMahon.

Texas Tech will be excited as well. They’d like nothing better than to knock off No. 1 under the bright lights of “the big apple.”

Gallery courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton