Louisville ends two-game skid, grinds win over Miami

Jordan Nwora capturing scoring honors once again, collecting a total of 19 points against Miami (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Just Miami for the second time this season. Nothing about which for the University of Louisville basketball team to get too excited. The Cardinals having defeated the Hurricanes easily on their home court in the season opener way back on Nov. 5.

One of the more fun moments for UofL fans. Attendance was 14,980 (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Hitting on all cylinders early in the first half, Louisville racing out to a 30-10 lead. The killer instinct nowhere to be found, allowing Miami to reduce the deficit to five points in the second half. UofL would do just enough to grind out a 74-58 win before 14,980 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.

An offense that struggles when it should be taking advantage of defensive weaknesses, finding ways not to score when they could put the game out of reach. Needing a lesser opponent to pose a serious threat before generating any extra intensity.

The good news was that the two-game losing streak came to an end after losses to Kentucky and Florida State.

Darius Perry had nine points and three assists against Miami (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Jordan Nwora on cue, leading his team in scoring with 19 points, including three of five 3-point attempts. Steve Enoch still not getting it in the post but managing 12 points and 10 rebounds. Darius Perry and Dwayne Sutton contributing 10 and nine points, respectively.

A grinder of a game, more of a nodding affair than anyone anticipated. Not the easy win at home this team could have used before hitting the road for three ACC games. UofL returns to town Jan. 22nd for a game against Georgia Tech.

 

Familiar sinking feeling for Louisville basketball

Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton

Interesting how quickly things started to go downhill after the University of Louisville basketball team rose to become the No. 1 team early this season. Jumping out to a 9-0 record, utilizing primarily the same players from an unranked team last season.

Jordan Nwora back to a familiar role, doing most of the scoring for the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Seems like a long time but little more than a month ago. The lofty ranking more than a little premature, as Coach Chris Mack indicated at the time. With their 78-65 loss to Florida State at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, the Cardinals have lost three of their past five games.

Ranked seventh going into the game, Louisville will be out of the top 10 next week, possibly headed back to obscurity again. Few signs of any progress since being exposed by Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden. No bouncing back after the annual loss to Kentucky.

David Johnson with 19 minutes of playing time a hopeful sign for UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Before the season began, UofL was predicted to be a top five team, largely based on having one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. Once a starter, five-start recruit Samuell Williamson saw less than eight minutes of playing time on Saturday, claiming a rebound but not scoring a point.

Highly acclaimed freshman guard David Johnson, who missed several games due to injury, actually played 19 minutes. He had four points and three assists but with three turnovers. Freshmen Josh Nickelberry and Aiden Igiehon seeing less than two minutes. Fifth-year transfer Lamarr Kimble contributed six points, three assists and three turnovers.

Familiar scenario elsewhere with Jordan Nwora scoring most of UofL’s points, a total of 32 points in this one. But Dwayne Sutton, Steven Enoch, Darius Perry, Ryan McMahon and Malik Williams adding a combined 23 points. On defense, allowing Florida State to hit 55% of their field goal attempts.

The rise to the top, occurring as quickly as it did, may have been the worst possible scenarios for a team that needed to improve dramatically from last season. Taking success for granted, not needing much effort to get national recognition, lacking significant motivation to work harder, to get better. 

The veterans, including Nwora, are exhibiting many of the same weaknesses from a year ago. Making many of the same mistakes, inconsistent on offense and defense, still overly dependent on Nwora. The freshmen, languishing on the bench thus far, needing experience. Going to have to get better the hard way, against the best that the Atlantic Coast Conference has to offer.

The leadership is going to have to come from the freshmen if it is to happen, but that scenario would appear to be unlikely — at least at this point in the season.

One of the few highlights for Louisville fans was the introduction of former UofL great Russ Smith (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Familiar outcome in Louisville-Kentucky basketball rivalry

CBS Graphic

Best to resist becoming overly optimistic or excited about a University of Louisville basketball game in which the opponent is the University of Kentucky. UofL fans will inevitably be disappointed, the men having lost 10 of the past 12 games to UK in the series.

The rankings, the quality of the players, the season record, none of these things appear to be relevant. The rivalry became lopsided over a decade ago, shortly after John Calipari made the trek from Memphis to Lexington.

Still an intense relationship, however, judging from the ferocity of UK fans in Lexington on Saturday. From the looks on their faces, the self-respect of many seemingly hinging on beating Louisville. The Wildcats rescuing them one more time, this time with a 78-70 overtime decision before 20,437 at Rupp Arena.

A familiar sequence in the series, UofL players playing tight, reverting to early season form on offense and defense. Jumping out to a quick lead at the start, only to quickly give it up and watch UK build a lead, widening it, threatening to put the game out of reach by halftime. 

Louisville’s leading scorer, Jordan Nwora, a non-factor most of the game, unable to get open, unable to make layups or long-distance shots on those rare occasions when he was open, or make crucial free throws for that matter. Watching the game from the bench much of the second half.

The difference between a blowout and an overtime win this time may have been that Kentucky doesn’t have the killer instinct or the  shooters to put the game away. Allowing Louisville to whittle away at the lead behind a determined Dwayne Sutton, UofL somehow managing to tie the score at 61-61 at the end of regulation.

The Cardinals would actually have a three-point lead in overtime before their luck ran out, coinciding with an ugly airball by Ryan McMahon. At that point, with UofL behind 72-70 with 21 seconds to go, the air going out of the balloon. UofL suddenly inept, giving up the ghost, conceding one more time to the Wildcats.

Nwora, averaging 21.2 points per game, could manage only two of 10 field goal attempts and three of five free throws for a total of eight points in the game that matters most for Cardinal fans. McMahon one for five from the field and one of two from the free throw line for four points. 

As for the over all free throw shooting, pretty dismal with Louisville making only nine of 20 attempts, clank, clank, clank.

Can’t be disappointed, however, in Steven Enoch, the fifth-year player leading his team with 18 points and five rebounds. Dwayne Sutton keeping UofL in the game, contributing 14 points and 10 rebounds.  

Were it not for the growing frustration with the lack of success in the rivalry, one would have to acknowledge that Louisville did scratch its way back from a 12-point deficit against a team with its back to the wall. They were in the most intense environment they will see this season, with a very real chance of winning. 

A bitter loss for sure but it still only counts as one loss in a season in which Louisville is 11-2 and ranked third in the nation. The pain will quickly subside as the Cardinals prepare for equally motivated foes in the always rugged Atlantic Coast Conference competition.

Miami hangs with Louisville but not long enough

Jordan Nwora gets plenty of attention every time he gets the ball but he scored more than 20 points for the eighth time this season. In photo above, the UofL brain trust plots strategy against Miami (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Not a fun game to watch. The University of Louisville basketball struggling for quite a while to escape the clutches of an inferior  Miami (O.) team. Almost a yawner, seemingly going through the motions.

One shouldn’t be too surprised, maybe, not with the nation’s top ranked teams getting everybody’s best game every time out. Big underdogs like Miami, with a 5-5 record, looking to knock off third-ranked Louisville. Hoping to overcome an ugly start to the season, hungry for respect, nothing to lose.

Louisville assistants Mike Pegue, Dino Gaudio and Luke Murray with the game still in doubt (Mike DeZarn photo).

A bad team making a good team look bad? Or a mediocre team exposing the flaws or weaknesses in more respected foe? Hard to tell but the scenario was all too familiar for Louisville in recent games.

UofL finally putting the visiting Redhawks away behind the shooting of Jordan Nwora in the second half in a 70-46 rout before a crowd of 15,444 at the KFC Yum! Center.  The Cardinals would score 17 straight points after Miami had cut the deficit to four points at the 9:02 mark.

Malik Williams pulling down 11 rebounds as the  backup center (Mike DeZarn photo).

Nwora would have two 3-pointers during the run, and would wind up with 20 points, eight rebounds, one assist and a steal for the game. It was Nwora’s eighth 20-point game of the season. He was 7 of 17 from the floor.

Needs to be more careful with the basketball, however, making four turnovers.  UofL had a total of 10 turnovers in the game.

Ryan McMahon and Jordan Nwora wait at scorer’s table to get back into the action (Mike DeZarn photo).

Louisville needs to find other shooters if is going to be a serious contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Ryan McMahon the only other Cardinals in double figure scoring, 11 points, against Miami.

Lots to work on during the holidays between now and Saturday, Dec. 28, as they prepare for a showdown at Rupp Arena.

 

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.