Despite playing from behind for nearly the entirety of the afternoon, the Louisville men’s basketball team was able to escape with a 90-84 overtime victory over New Mexico State on Sunday at the KFC Yum Center.
The Cardinals trailed by eight points with just 1:09 to play before a furious rally sent the game to overtime. The 8-0 run was capped by a Tre White three-pointer from the top of the key with 14.6 seconds to left. Mike James was then whistled for a blocking foul with only 1.5 seconds to go, but New Mexico State’s Kaosi Ezeagu missed both free-throws.
Louisville never trailed in the overtime period despite only making one field goal — a JJ Traynor layup to start the scoring.
New Mexico State, it should be noted, is coming off a year in which it canceled its season in February following both a murder investigation and a player hazing scandal. This resulted in NMSU bringing in an entirely new coaching staff and being the only program in Division-I with an entirely new roster for 2023-24.
To make matters worse, the Aggies — a team picked finish 8th in a 9-team Conference USA — were playing on Sunday without leading scorer and rebounder Femi Odukale, who was battling an illness. They entered Sunday at No. 255 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.
Louisville prevailed thanks in large part to a 36-9 advantage at the free-throw line. New Mexico State was called for 40 fouls against just 16 whistles on Louisville.
Six Aggie players eventually fouled out of the game. With just 10 available players going into the afternoon, NMSU was forced to play the final 30 seconds of overtime with just four players on the court.
The Cardinals got 29 points from Skyy Clark, 22 points from Tre White, and a career-high 20 points from Traynor. It marked the first time since 2014 that Louisville has had three players score 20 or more points in one game.
All things considered, this probably would have been the worst loss of the Kenny Payne era to date. Narrowly avoiding it isn’t exactly overly encouraging, but it’s better than the alternative.