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Louisville gives uneven performance in 87-78 win over Omaha

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A win’s a win, but this type of effort can’t happen again.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska Omaha at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Deng Adel scored 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field to lead Louisville to an 87-78 victory over Omaha Friday night at the KFC Yum Center. Ray Spalding contributed a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

For a solid chunk of the night, it felt like the standard Louisville non-conference November home game. After a sloppy start, the Cards seized control midway through the first half and then carried a 40-25 advantage into the locker room with them at halftime.

Then, it was sort of like everyone wearing white forgot that they had to keep playing in order to finish off the blowout.

Instead, Omaha outscored U of L 53-47 in the second half and made the Cardinal starters put forth way more effort than they should have needed to in order to secure their second victory of the city.

“We have to learn to play with the lead,” David Padgett said after the game.

There’s no question about that.

I get that Padgett was doing some of the early season mixing and matching that Cardinal fans had become accustomed to under Rick Pitino. He started Malik Williams at the four, he tinkered with some different lineups, and he kept both Quentin Snider and Ray Spaling from being on the court for 30 minutes.

Still, Louisville’s inability to bury a winless opponent coming off a 32-point beatdown at the hands of New Mexico. Also troubling is the fact that the Cardinals managed to score the fewest points of any of UNO’s four opponents, and allowed the undersized Mavericks to rebound a whopping 39 percent of their own missed shots.

For the second straight game, Louisville’s offense lacked flow and its defense lacked communication. Given everything that’s gone on over on Floyd Street since September, that can be forgiven. What can’t be forgiven is that for a large chunk of Friday night’s game, the home team simply got out-worked by the visitor’s who entered the building as 27.5-point underdogs.

If these guys are serious about the “us against the world” and “people forget we’ve still got the same players, it’s time to make them remember” mentality they’ve been preaching, then getting out-worked can’t happen. Not against Kentucky, not against North Carolina, and not against Omaha.

Everyone knows Louisville has its work cut out for it when it heads to Purdue in 11 days, but if the Cards play the way they have in games one and two, then Southern Illinois is going to stroll in here on Tuesday night and hand the program its first November home loss since 1972. It’s time to really go to work.

Here’s the final box score from Friday: