UofL follows Williams’ lead, blows past North Carolina

Malik Williams for two of his 17 points — Mike DeZarn photo

Samuell Williamson shows the form that will make him a breakout player for Louisville in the not-too-distant future. He had five points against North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So encouraging to see Malik Williams getting better, realizing his potential, with each game as the University of Louisville basketball team enters the home stretch. The uncertainty, the awkwardness, the inability to finish shots, all behind him on Saturday.

The 6-foot-10 junior, who has been described by teammate David Johnson as the team’s alpha dog, urging greater effort from fellow players in recent days, doing everything he can to provide extra motivation. Demanding, expecting, raising expectations.

Peyton Siva, Sr. was among the 21,076 fans enjoying every minute of the latest win over North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one in the crowd of 21,076 at the KFC Yum! Center could deny that he had not exceeded their expectations, and maybe his, in Louisville’s 72-55 win over North Carolina on Saturday.

It was the Cardinals’ 23rd win of the season against five losses, and the 14th win in 17 starts in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Good for a half game lead over Florida State in the ACC.

Williams, growing out of some of the uncertainty and awkwardness around the basket, going up with authority, finishing with regularity in the latest outing. More than 31 minutes of action, with little relief from Steven Enoch with the sore ankle, relishing every minute of playing time .

“Malik means a lot to our team,” said UofL Coach Chris Mack. “Not just the statistics, which continue to get better offensively and defensively. His presence on the defensive end. He’s put in a lot of work. His teammates respect the heck out of him and he’s one of the best bigs in our league.”

Consistency and leadership abounding. Williams would, in fact, make seven of 10 shots around the basket and one of two 3-point shots for 17 points.  He would also pull down nine rebounds, including four on the offensive board, block one shot and make two assists. 

He would also get plenty of help on the boards, with teammates Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton claiming 11 and nine rebounds, respectively. Nwora, with his fifth double-double this season, leading all scorers with 18 points. He was also praising Williams after the game.

“He’s been a great captain,” said Nwora. “He brings a lot of leadership and energy. Leading us every day. And me.”

Williams’ desire to see his fellow players get better, combined with his personal improvement, makes him an even more effective leader.

A future Cardinal getting immersed in the UofL basketball tradition (MIke DeZarn photo).

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.