For about 30 minutes on Wednesday night, the Louisville basketball team made Cardinal fans re-think every Evansville joke they’ve told or written over the past week.
U of L, a 36-point favorite against a USC Upstate team currently ranked by Ken Pomeroy as the 346th-best team out of 353 Division-I squads, trailed the visiting Spartans 43-40 with a little over 13 minutes to play in the second half. The Cardinals responded by restoring order and scoring 36 of the game’s final 43 points on their way to a 76-50 victory.
“You can’t really measure your team until you get thrown a bit of adversity,” U of L head coach Chris Mack said after the game. “It’s good for a team to go through periods like this. Figure out what we have to correct and be able to do it on the fly without having two or three practices. Test our metal a little bit. I was proud over the last 8-10 minutes with how we responded.”
Louisville shot 50.9 percent as a team, keeping alive their streak of shooting 50 percent or better from the field in every game so far this season. Jordan Nwora led the way with a season-high 28 points to go along with nine rebounds. Ryan McMahon added 15 points by going 5-of-8 from behind the three-point line.
The more concerning issue for Mack was on the defensive end, where his team gave up too many open outside looks to their undersized visitors, and also struggled to defend one-on-one without fouling.
“I give USC Upstate a lot of credit,” Mack said. “They didn’t play in awe. Right from the very beginning when their point guard hit back-to-back threes, I think he gave their team a lot of confidence for the rest of the half. I thought we played pretty well offensively, but I think it just shows the danger of the three-point shot in college basketball.”
USC Upstate matched Louisville in made three-pointers (9) and in made free-throws (also 9), but was out-rebounded by the Cardinals, 40-22. The man primarily responsible for that was Dwayne Sutton, who pulled down a career-high 15 boards to go along with nine points and four assists.
“You never have to worry about Dwayne when it comes to his motor, his effort level,” Mack said. “He got 15 rebounds and it’s not like he’s 6’9 and blessed with a 40-inch vertical. He’s 6’5, he’s undersized, coming out of high school he played at a level very similar to USC Upstate. But it just shows what will, toughness, and character can do for a player, because he has all of that.”
With the victory, Louisville moved to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Global Sports Shootout. The winner of the game between U of L and Akron on Sunday will also be the winner of the round-robin event.
Start thinking of t-shirt designs.
Here’s your final box score from Wednesday: