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Kenny Payne era at Louisville starts with 67-66 loss to Bellarmine

The Cards dropped their first game of a season for the first time in nearly two decades.

Bellarmine v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville fans have to hope that one day it will simply serve as a curious anecdote: Did you know the first game Kenny Payne coached was actually a home loss to Bellarmine?

In their first game of the Payne era, the Cardinals trailed from nearly start to finish on their way to a 67-66 loss to Scotty Davenport’s still transitioning to Division-I Knights. The loss was U of L’s first in an opening game in 19 years, and their first in a home opener in 22.

The same issues that plagued Louisville in two shaky exhibition performances were on full display Wednesday evening.

The Cardinals looked lost on defense far too often, they failed to accentuate their extreme size and athleticism advantage on either end of the floor, and ultimately could never string together a long enough run of solid play to seize control of the contest.

Redshirt freshman Mike James may have been the biggest bright spot for the home team. James, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, scored 16 points and had four rebounds to go along with three assists. His three-pointer with just over a minute to play brought Louisville to within one, but El Ellis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and then Kamari Lands and Roosevelt Wheeler both misfired on opportunities to play hero in the game’s final seconds.

Jae’Lyn Withers led Louisville with 17 points, while Ellis added 15 and a team-high five assists.

Bellarmine was led by senior guard Garrett Tipton, who averaged just 4.7 ppg. He poured in 21 against the Cards, going 9-of-16 from the field. As a team, the Knights shot 48.8 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three.

On one hand, it was definitely better than the exhibition games. On the other, it was still a home loss to what is probably the third or fourth worst team you’re going to face this season.

It certainly seems like this is going to be a long winter in the Derby City.