There wasn’t anything easy about it, but ultimately, Louisville made sure that the Chris Mack era didn’t begin with a loss.
The Cards shot just 6-of-25 from beyond the arc, but got 17 points from V.J. King and a monster second half effort from Steven Enoch to pull out a 71-60 exhibition victory over the Bellarmine Knights Sunday afternoon at the KFC Yum Center.
Despite working hard to create a number of clean looks, Louisville struggled with its outside shot all afternoon. The Cards missed their first 11 three-point attempts before Dwayne Sutton finally knocked one down deep into the first half.
Chris Mack opens his press conference by apologizing for being late because he was watching the Bengals kick a game-winning field goal. "About the only 3 I saw go in today," he jokes.— Danielle Lerner (@danielle_lerner) October 28, 2018
Thankfully, Louisville’s defense was up to the task, limiting a great-shooting Bellarmine team to just 7-of-22 from three, and forcing 19 turnovers out of Scott Davenport’s team. That second number helped to counteract the fact that U of L had 20 turnovers itself.
Things got dicy in the second half for Louisville, as Bellarmine reeled off 10 straight points to momentarily take a 40-39 lead. It was then Enoch of all people who turned the tide of the game, burying back-to-back three pointers to spark a 9-0 Louisville run which allowed the Cards to re-seize control of the contest. Bellarmine never got closer than four points after that.
With the victory, Louisville has now won 36 consecutive exhibition games, a streak which dates back to Dec. 2, 2000. The Cards are 9-0 all-time in exhibition games against Bellarmine, and 21-0 against the Knights overall.
Here’s your box score, followed up by a few quick thoughts:
—Bellarmine is the preseason No. 1 team in Division-II in two sets of rankings, so beating the Knights by 11 when you shot the ball as poorly as Louisville did is nothing to feel bad about. Especially noteworthy is the fact that the Cards won by double-digits despite Jordan Nwora shooting just 2-of-12 from the floor, a ratio I wouldn’t expect to see much of from him this season.
—You heard it all summer, but Christen Cunningham showcased why he’s the team’s unquestioned floor general on Sunday afternoon. The Samford transfer isn’t nearly as explosive as Louisville point guards of the recent past, but he’s always in control, and always in command of the offense Chris Mack is trying to install.
—Not hearing (or saying myself) “Go! Go! Go!” after every defensive rebound or turnover is going to take some getting used to.
—Confidence is a huge thing for V.J. King, so it was great to see his junior season get off to this kind of start. The chopping of the feet every time he catches a pass is still something that has to be eliminated though.
—Pound for pound, Darius Perry and Dwayne Sutton are once again going to be your best defenders.
—It was nice to see Steven Enoch live up to the hype. It’s pretty clear that his less than stellar numbers at Connecticut were due largely to the fact that Kevin Ollie simply had no idea how to use him.
—Malik Williams also looked very comfortable in a new system that wouldn’t seem to play to his strengths. One of the biggest deficiencies on this year’s roster is a shortage of guys who have unique skillsets. Williams is the biggest exception, which makes him adapting to his new role extremely important.
—That was far from the most aesthetically pleasing afternoon the KFC Yum Center has seen, but it still feels so good to have basketball back. This year especially.
Let the journey begin.