It was about the furthest thing possible from a thing of beauty, but in the end, the Chris Mack era at Louisville began with a victory.
After seeing a comfortable lead whittled down to two with just three minutes to play, the Cardinals made plays necessary down the stretch to defeat visiting Nicholls State, 85-72. Big man Steven Enoch led the way for U of L with 15 points and seven rebounds, Darius Perry added 14 points, and V.J. King and Jordan Nwora chipped in 12 apiece.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Mack said after the game. “We have to get a lot better in a hurry. Hopefully this was a little dose of reality for some of our guys.”
Louisville made just 19 field goals and attempted a whopping 26 fewer shots than their opponents, but they made up for that by outscoring Nicholls 42-15 from the free-throw line. Enoch was a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe, setting his first U of L record.
Steven Enoch broke the record for best free throw shooting in a UofL debut, making all 11 FTs in his first game as a Card. Jerry Smith held the old record with 9-9 FTs in his debut in 2006.— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) November 9, 2018
It's the best FT shooting since Wayne Blackshear was 12-12 in the 2015 Elite Eight.
Jeremiah Jefferson led the upset bid for the Colonels, scoring a game-high 24 points that came thanks mostly to seven made three-pointers. Gavin Peppers added 14.
Nicholls also did its best to make the U of L record book:
Nicholls State's 38 personal fouls tie the record for a Louisville opponent, matching the total by Texas in a 101-78 Louisville win on Dec. 9, 1995, and by Cincinnati in an 86-65 Louisville win on March 8, 1986.— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) November 9, 2018
Louisville has now won 15 consecutive season-openers and 18 consecutive home openers. The victory also improved Chris Mack’s career record in season-openers to a perfect 10-0.
It was nice to see Louisville make the plays it needed to in order to avoid disaster, but a game this close against the second or third worst team on this year’s schedule paints a pretty clear picture of the uphill climb this team is facing in 2018-19. They’ll play hard, they’ll get better and they’ll beat multiple teams they probably have no business beating, but there are going to be lumps.
If that’s not enough to make you feel good about what you watched tonight, just remember how Archie Miller’s debut at Indiana went last year ...
I’ll take the 13-point win over Nicholls.
It felt different, and it’s probably going to be feel different for a little while, but I couldn’t be happier that basketball is back and that the Chris Mack era is here. I think everyone associated with the program is just glad to have that first win tucked away.