In its first night back on the court after the most distressing week of its season, Louisville delivered the exact performance every Cardinal fan was hoping to see.
For 40 minutes, U of L played with a level of focus and energy that simply was not there in the team’s back-to-back road losses against Georgia Tech and Clemson. The result was a 90-66 blowout of a Syracuse team that came into the KFC Yum Center even more desperate for a W than its hosts.
After a solid week (or more) of #StartingLineupDebate2020, Chris Mack made the move to insert Jordan Nwora back into the starting five, as well as add David Johnson, Ryan McMahon and Malik Williams to the fold. The move certainly paid off on night one, as four of the five starters scored in double figures. The one who didn’t (Johnson) finished with seven assists and no turnovers while often running the U of L offense from the middle of the Syracuse zone.
Though he was just 6-of-19 from the field, Nwora played with a renewed level of interest and confidence, and finished with a game-high 19 points as well as seven rebounds and three assists. Williams, who was reportedly the loudest voice during the team’s players only meeting earlier this week, played like a true captain. The junior big man was all over the place, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Fellow captain Dwayne Sutton was equally omnipresent, and posted a stat line of 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. McMahon drilled four threes and finished with 13 points and four assists.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the evening? Louisville assisted on 23 of its 30 made shots. They had just 21 assists combined in their two losses last week.
The defense was phenomenal. The game plan to attack the zone was phenomenal. The passing was phenomenal. Quinn Slazinski drilling a three was phenomenal. Keith Oddo drilling a pair of free-throws was phenomenal. The Mack/Fresh Kimble chest bump was beyond phenomenal.
Mack chest bumping Fresh? Right in my veins, y’all... pic.twitter.com/ui1ccUdeiA— Your Dad (@El_Dog02) February 20, 2020
But above everything else, this was about the effort. From this point forward, there’s zero excuse for this team to play another second of live action with any less focus or intensity than it played with Wednesday night. If they do that, they’re going to be able to play with any team in the country when the lights get their brightest. If there’s a reversion, the results are going to be what they were a week ago.
We’ve been here before. It’s time to finally learn the lesson.
For now, though ... the Cards are back.