By Matt Bradshaw —
No. 2 seed men’s basketball (22-13) rolled past No. 3 Middle Tennessee (25-8) in the second round of the NIT. The Cardinals shot 52 percent from beyond the arc in their 84-68 victory under an electric crowd at the KFC Yum! Center.
Though out-played in the paint, U of L forced 15 turnovers with eight steals in a solid defensive performance. Louisville also posted more than double MTSU’s bench points with 42.
Freshman Jordan Nwora and redshirt sophomore Ryan McMahon led the Cardinals with key performances off the bench. The pair shot a combined 10-of-18 from 3-point range with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Junior Ray Spalding controlled the frontcourt with 18 points. Senior Quentin Snider led the backcourt with eight assists. V. J. King added 13 points with six rebounds.
The Cardinals now move forward to play in the quarterfinals of the tournament. They face No. 4 Mississippi State Tuesday, March 20 at home.
Louisville and MTSU battled early on with five ties and four lead changes. The Blue Raiders had the edge in rebounding (8-7) as they fought to a 14-10 lead.
Spalding kept Louisville in the game with 10 points and two rebounds in the quarter. MTSU led 16-15 at the end of the period, after freshman Darius Perry nailed a 3-pointer to keep the Cardinals within one.
Anas Mahmoud got the crowd going at the beginning of the quarter with key hustle plays. The senior had two monster blocks then one of his most impressive dunks of the season as Louisville shot out to a 25-18 lead.
The Blue Raiders found themselves in trouble as their most productive player, senior Nick King, committed three early fouls. The Cardinals took advantage of the situation with the depth of their talented bench.
McMahon propelled his team forward with four 3-pointers in four minutes. Nwora added four points and Snider dished out eight assists as Louisville led MTSU 41-26 at halftime.
MTSU trailed by seven points with three minutes left in the quarter after outscoring Louisville 23-15. The Blue Raiders shot 80 percent from the field during the span to take control of the game.
Spalding and Nwora gave the Cardinals a lift with a combined nine points in the final three minutes. Louisville led 65-52 moving into the final quarter.
MTSU stayed close to Louisville in the first half of the fourth. The Cardinals only made two baskets in the first five minutes as the Blue Raiders kept the score at 70-59.
The Cards gained momentum back with strong defense and a 14-9 run that ended the game. The final score read 84-68 in favor of Louisville.
You can follow Matt Bradshaw on Twitter @bradmatt8.
Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal