The time for some soul-searching has officially arrived in the Derby City.
Louisville backed up its gut-wrenching overtime loss last week at Kentucky with a 78-65 home loss to Florida State Saturday afternoon inside the KFC Yum Center. Jordan Nwora’s 32 points and 10 rebounds weren’t enough for the Cardinals to keep FSU from winning back-to-back games on U of L’s home floor for the first time in the history of a series that dates all the way back to 1968.
While Nwora’s offense was spectacular, Louisville’s defense was not. Florida State had little to no trouble getting any shot they wanted all afternoon long, and finished a scorching 55.2 percent from the field and 11-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Despite coming off the bench because of a minor hip injury, M.J. Walker torched the Cardinals with a season-high 23 points. Fellow guards Trent Forrest (20 points, five assists) and Devin Vassell (14 points) also abused Louisville’s backcourt defenders.
Oh hello, Devin Vassell — wonderful help-side recognition (FSU allows him to rove), rips this pass from Enoch who had Polite posted on the switch, right into a the one-touch hit-ahead pass to Forrest. pic.twitter.com/dCeCHlrRG1— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) January 4, 2020
“Give all of the credit to Florida State,” Mack said after the game. “They were the tougher team. Our guards got manhandled, especially in the second half. They’re really good and really athletic, but we knew that coming in.”
Outside of Nwora, just one Cardinal scored more than six points (Steven Enoch with 10). Despite Chris Mack giving extended run to players like David Johnson and Samuell Williamson, Louisville’s bench was outscored 32-8.
Mack altered his starting lineup for the first time on Saturday, inserting Fresh Kimble into the starting five, moving Darius Perry over to the two, and bringing Ryan McMahon off the bench. The trio combined to go just 6-of-23 from the floor against Florida State’s bigger and more athletic defenders.
The most discouraging thing about a week go was the feeling that an out of character team effort from the free-throw line and a total no-show from the team’s best player kept Louisville from securing a huge win that should have been theirs. The most discouraging thing about this performance seven days later is that Florida State just simply looked like a superior team from start to finish.
Louisville is now 1-3 in Quadrant 1 games, and with the ACC being what it is this year (not great), the Cards aren’t going to have as many opportunities as usual to pretty up that record. That leaves the team with no margin for error in these next three games against what should be overmatched opponents before the team heads to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a showdown with Duke in two weeks.
This one was bad, and piling it on top of the disappointment in Lexington last week only makes it feel worse. That feeling is going to continue to linger until this group does something about it.