After more than a few anxious opening night moments, the Louisville men’s basketball team was able to pull away from a worn down Southern squad and begin its 2021-22 campaign with a 72-60 victory.
Despite entering the night as a 25.5-point favorite, the Cardinals led by just a bucket at halftime and found themselves trailing by two three minutes into the second half. Some timely shooting by Noah Locke and some gritty play from the forward duo of Samuell Williamson and Matt Cross — who played valiantly despite seeing a finger be dislocated into a 90-degree angle near the end of the first half — allowed the home team to seize and maintain control of the contest for the remainder of the evening.
Transition threes are good imo pic.twitter.com/ALDCnCyEqU— Chris Hatfield (@ChrisDHatfield) November 10, 2021
Locke led all scorers with 16 points, nine of those coming from beyond the arc. Cross chipped in 15, while Williamson notched his sixth double-double in his last eight games by scoring 14 points to go along with 14 rebounds.
Louisville’s much-discussed new up-tempo offense produced mixed returns in its debut showing. The Cardinals certainly placed a stronger emphasis on the outside shot, taking 28 three-pointers, but making only seven of those. U of L was also overly loose with the ball for long stretches, a trend which resulted in 19 turnovers.
I’m sure it was comforting for everyone involved with this team, especially Mike Pegues, to get win No. 1 out of the way. That’s the good. The bad is that a performance similar to the one given this evening could easily result in a loss to Furman — which made 22 of 44 three-point attempts tonight — on Friday or Navy — which took down Virginia in Charlottesville tonight — next Monday.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be accomplished in not a lot of time. No more turning it off for a while and then turning it back on when things get a little too dicey. These guys aren’t good enough to do that and win at the level they’re hoping to this season. Last year’s team learned that lesson too late. This group needs to go ahead and accept that now if they want to avoid a similar fate.
Despite the clunkiness and the more nervous than they should have been moments early in the second half, it felt fantastic to be back. This was a good night.