By Dalton Ray —
Men’s basketball eked a 66-58 win over Northern Kentucky in front of their home crowd in the first round of the NIT. U of L out-scored NKU 42-28 in the second half to complete the comeback and hold off the Norse.
Louisville will face the winner of No. 3 Middle Tennessee State and No. 6 Vermont Saturday, March 17.
The Cardinals used an 11-0 run between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter to regain the lead after trailing most of the first three quarters.
“It’s not fools gold. They are a legitimate team … hats off to them for giving us everything we had,” acting head coach David Padgett said.
Junior Deng Adel scored 20 points with 12 coming in the third quarter. Redshirt sophomore Ryan McMahon had en efficient night off the bench, going 4-of-5 (2-of-2 from three) for 10 points.
Senior Quentin Snider went 2-for-8, but knocked down a pair of threes to help Louisville during their second-half comeback. Junior Ray Spalding hauled in 13 rebounds.
Rumors swirled that the team didn’t want to play in this tournament and Padgett said the team shut that down.
“The way they played tonight answers any questions whether or not they were ready or interested in playing in this game. I think that was pretty evident,” Padgett said. “They’ve been resilient all year and they did it again today. It’s who they are.”
Louisville started out 3-of-4, but a four minute scoring drought allowed NKU to stay close. The Norse took their first lead eight minutes in after Louisville first turnover.
U of L still held a 16-15 lead going into the quarter despite poor shooting (2-for-11 at one point).
Louisville missed their first seven shots to start the second quarter and NKU took a six-point lead early.
Fouls harmed Louisville’s defensive opportunities, committing seven in the second quarter. NKU went 5-of-6 from the line in the quarter, leading to a 30-23 halftime lead.
The Cardinals ended the half on a three-minute scoring drought.
Adel opened the quarter with nine points in three minutes, but Louisville couldn’t get a stop defensively. NKU led 36-32 after a goaltending call.
Snider’s free throws tied the game at 36-36, but a NKU and-one gave the Norse the lead right back. Snider answered, drilling a three to tie it again.
Freshman Darius Perry gave Louisville the lead to end the quarter, throwing down a vicious one-handed dunk over a NKU defender.
McMahon started the fourth quarter with a quick five points after his steal and layup.
Louisville pushed their lead to 10, but back-to-back 3-pointers from NKU kept them within striking distance.
Free throws down the stretch kept Louisville in the lead.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal