The best performance of the Kenny Payne era to date was still not quite enough for the Louisville men’s basketball team to spring a monumental upset.
The Cardinals fought valiantly before ultimately falling on a last-second shot by Texas star Max Abmas in the semifinals of the Empire Classic Sunday evening inside Madison Square Garden. Final score: No. 19 Texas 81, Louisville 80.
So it goes.
Tre White and Skyy Clark led the way for the Cards with 20 points apiece, while Ty-Laur Johnson came off the bench to chip in 14. An inspired Brandon Huntley-Hatfield also battled against foul trouble to turn in an 11-point, nine rebound performance before fouling out on an extremely questionable call with 2:49 to play.
Despite the final result, this was the first time in multiple years where I felt like I was actually watching Louisville basketball. It was also a performance that confirmed what I think most of us already knew: There’s way too much talent on this team for it to look the way it did in the exhibitions and the first three games of the regular season. There may not be the potential on this roster to be a great basketball team, but there’s certainly the potential to be a good basketball team.
The Cards will face Indiana in the Third Place Game tomorrow afternoon at 3:30. If they bring the same level of focus and energy that they did tonight, they have more than a fighting chance.