The question going into the game was how the University of Louisville basketball team would react to competition the first game following the resignation of former Coach Chris Mack. Fans liked the answer, with the Cardinals putting the outcome in doubt until the final five minutes. Duke winning 74-65.
A lot happening before the game, a big-time atmosphere with 18,493 people on hand. Mike Krzyzewski’s final game of his career in Louisville. Former UofL Coach Denny Crum presenting the Duke coach with a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat and Coach Mike Pegues bestowing him with a Maker’s Mark bottle bearing MK’s image. The Duke coach later saying that he was deeply honored by Crum’s involvement, followed by a long embrace.
“Thank you, Louisville,” Krzyzewski said. “You could not have honored me in a higher manner than to have Denny — I’m going to get emotional. He’s one of the true icons of the game and someone that I’ve admired my entire life, when he worked for Coach (John) Wooden, and then the amazing job he did here.”
Some inspiring pregame ceremonies there were but without any immediate effect on this UofL team. The Cardinals with another anemic start, falling behind 24-8 at the 10 minute mark. Somehow, some way, they were able to crawl into the game, tailing only by two points with 1.6 seconds in the first half. Unfortunately, Malik Williams was guilty of traveling on a desperation shot, giving Duke another shot, good, of course, and five-point lead as teams went to the locker rooms.
Nip and tuck for the first 14 minutes, with Louisville actually tying the game at 60-60 at the 8:28 mark. The Cardinals could never get over the hump, however. They were led in scoring by El Ellis, Dre Davis and Williams with 18, 16 and 10 points, respectively. Should be noted that Williams also had 12 rebounds.
Not enough evidence to suggest that UofL will be a better team under Mike Pegues. Duke will elicit an all-out effort from even the worst of teams. But the turnout of 18,493 people for a noon game is proof enough that the fan support will be there if it is earned.