Louisville moved to 9-0 on the season and 2-0 in the ACC Friday night with a 64-46 home win over Pittsburgh that was short on flow and long on physicality.
Despite suffering what appeared to be a scary shoulder injury in the second half, Jordan Nwora led the Cards with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Nwora re-entered the game not long after leaving it, and played the rest of the evening without anything resembling a significant issue.
Chris Mack’s reaction when his star had to come out of the game?
“Sheer panic,” Mack said during his postgame press conference. “And I saw that in Jordan for a second. He said ‘It almost came out.’ I said, ‘Did it?’ And he said no. And I told him, ‘Almost doesn’t count.’”
Malik Williams came off the bench to deliver his best performance of the season to date, notching a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan McMahon canned a trio of three-pointers and was the only other Cardinal to score in double figures with 11 points.
Jeff Capel knew it was cash. pic.twitter.com/RhUg6s6Ugv— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) December 7, 2019
A total of eight different players made at least one three-pointer for Louisville, which finished 11-of-26 (42.3 percent) from beyond the arc as a team.
For the second straight game, the story of the night was likely the Cardinal defense. Louisville held Pitt nearly 20 points below their season average in scoring, and to 37.7 percent shooting from the field and 3-of-12 from three. Panther sophomore Trey McGowens, who entered the evening as the team’s leading scorer and who dropped 33 points on U of L a season ago, finished with just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Things actually looked dicey for the home team for a bit in the second half. After Nwora’s injury, Pitt scored on back-to-back possessions to cut Louisville’s lead to 47-42. Nwora re-entered the game and quickly drew a loose ball foul on Panther Au’Diese Toney with 8:44 to play. The Pittsburgh bench vehemently objected, and Ted Valentine hit them with a technical foul. The visitors never recovered.
Louisville scored the game’s next 13 points, while Pitt would finish with only four more points total on the evening. These two teams will meet again inside the Petersen Events Center on Jan. 14. I would expect that to be an even more physical game after some of the chippiness we saw this evening.
Overall for the Cards, this feels like something of a mixed bag performance with the good certainly outweighing the bad.
Louisville’s defense was tremendous on every level once again. Jordan Nwora again looked like an All-American. Malik Williams played like the guy we were all hoping to see from night one before his injury. Ryan McMahon proved that the talk of his two-game shooting “slump” was much ado about absolutely nothing. And Louisville ensured that for the first time in program history, it’s going to be the No. 1 team in the AP top 25 poll in back-to-back weeks.
On the flip side, neither point guard handled the ball pressure from Pitt’s bigger guards particularly well. Both Darius Perry and Fresh Kimble finished with three turnovers and just one made field goal. Steven Enoch had a less than stellar defensive effort after his monster performance on that end of the floor Tuesday night. U of L also had a tough night defending Xavier Johnson, who could have finished with a loaded stat sheet if he’d received just a touch more help.
Still, as mentioned, the good certainly outweighed the bad. Louisville is No. 1 in the country, undefeated, already 2-0 in the ACC, has five top 100 Ken Pom wins, and has only let one team play it closer than 13 points. That’s good stuff. All of it.