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.
 

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.

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

Being No. 1 makes Louisville basketball big target

The KFC Yum! Center was on fire during player introductions Tuesday as the top-ranked University of Louisville basketball team hosted fourth-ranked Michigan in front of 21,762 fans. Flames light up the backboards on both ends of the court. Jordan Nwora, in top phots, led Louisville with 22 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Michigan (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Almost cliche-ish, but it bears repeating.

Now that No. 1 Louisville has dispatched Michigan, Coach Chris Mack’s biggest challenge will be keeping his team humble and focused.

The coveted No. 1 ranking is nice. But means little. Believe me every team that comes into the Yum Center or every opponents arena the Cardinals visit will have extra incentive.

Mack said it following Tuesday’s win over Michigan. “We haven’t arrived or anything like that.” No it hasn’t. It is early December. This team as all teams will look different when March arrives.

The thing that stood out in the win over Michigan was defense. Louisville (8-0) held a team averaging over 80 points to 43 and a field goal shooting percentage in the 30 percent range.

Louisville and its massively loud fans made it difficult for Michigan to think straight. Most every time Michigan attacked the lane there was a Cardinal defender in the way.

Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams all had their moments. Guard Darius Perry was steady. Ryan McMahon would drive and would get fouled. Fresh Kimble and Samuel Williamson provided support off the bench.

“On some nights your offense isn’t going to be there. But your defense will,” said Mack.

Also give Michigan credit for its defense. Louisville was forced to take some ill advised shots. Nwora and Perry both took some off balanced attempts. This team is going to have to live with that. Mack said as much following a win over Akron over a week ago. “I can’t micro manage every shot.”

Pittsburgh (7-2) comes to the Yum Center Friday, 9 p.m. for an ACC game. You can bet the Panthers are chomping to get a shot at No. 1. You can bet Pitt fans remember No. 1-ranked Panther team that was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by UofL in 2009.

Should be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle success.

 

 

No. 1 Louisville basketball is back, taking care of Michigan

Jordan Nwora leading the team in points and rebounds while also leading the crowd in enthusiasm (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

What a great place for University of Louisville to be in the college basketball world, ranked No. 1 in all the major polls. A place few believed was conceivable after all the consternation of a couple of seasons ago.

A UofL team cool, calm and collected with the sudden rise to the top, focused and hungry. Defending the lofty national ranking against fourth-ranked Michigan that was undefeated and on a roll, having knocked off Iowa State, Gonzaga and North Carolina last week.

The Cardinals strictly concerned with taking care of business, following the game plan to the letter. Unveiling a level of defensive efficiency not seen  around here for a while, taking it to a new level. Also bringing a disciplined approach to offense, distributing the ball, waiting for the right shots and crashing those boards.

A near capacity throng of 21,674 fans at the KFC Yum! Center to see UofL leading the game from beginning to end, emerging with a convincing 15-point 58-43 win over the Michigan. A fan base delighted and thrilled with Louisville’s return to the upper echelons under Coach Chris Mack. Loud, noisy, boisterous, engaged for 40 minutes.

Jordan Nwora, passing up a chance at the NBA for this team, leading all scorers with 22 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Steven Enoch, continuing to improve, contributing 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Dwayne Sutton, everywhere during his 35 minutes of playing time, with 11 rebounds and four points. Chris Mack noting that Sutton also denied 17 Michigan cuts to the basket, thriving on his coach’s version of pack line defense.

Louisville basketball quieting the skeptics who said the Cardinals hadn’t beaten anybody in its first seven wins (with apologies to Miami and Western  Kentucky). Not bedazzled, beguiled or boastful about their early success and the accompanying recognition. Not ready to rest on its laurels, with so much more success possible in the season ahead.

ACC competition resumes soon, providing immense challenges, and those inevitable ups and downs. Meanwhile, UofL fans can enjoy the time at the top.