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Louisville claws its way to 72-61 season-opening win over George Mason

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NCAA Basketball: George Mason at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

On an afternoon where George Mason threatened to ruin the start of the David Padgett era, some old and new faces stepped up to save the day for the Louisville Cardinals.

Deng Adel scored a game-high 20 points while the freshmen duo of Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora combined to go 6-of-6 from three and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to lead the Cardinals to a 72-61 season-opening victory. Nwora’s final pair of shots from beyond the arc turned a 54-53 U of L lead into a 60-55 Cardinal advantage with just 3:16 to play. From there, the freshmen trio of Nwora, Perry and Malik Williams made seven consecutive free-throws to put the game on ice.

Louisville won on an afternoon where it trailed George Mason by six deep in the second half and where it got just 2-of-14 three-point shooting from players besides Nwora and Perry. The Cardinals also managed to out-rebound the much smaller Patriots by a slim final margin of 36-31.

In the end, we all need to be very thankful that this becomes a “great learning tool” game and not a “harsh reality” loss that could have had a lingering effect for the rest of the season.

Look, this is all new and still strange to everyone involved with the basketball program. These early games are going to be something of an awkward slog. The important thing is to find a way to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, get a little better each night, and hope things start to really click at some point during this lengthy journey.

Having the freshmen step up and Deng once again take over in the game’s most precipitous moments is a solid start. Obviously this wasn’t the overall performance Louisville fans wanted to see on day one, but it’s probably the one more of us should have seen coming.

November basketball is always hit or miss, even for teams that aren’t dealing with losing a Hall of Fame coach and two assistants three days before the start of practice. Hang in there and try and enjoy the ride.

Congrats to David Padgett and everyone else involved with being 1-0. It was a long journey in a short amount of time to get to this point.

Here’s your final box score: