By Matt Bradshaw —
Men’s basketball won its opening exhibition of the 2018-19 season against the visiting Bellarmine Knights. Following a sloppy and low-scoring first half, U of L improved offensive play and established a definitive edge for a 71-60 victory.
Bellarmine, coached by U of L graduate and former men’s basketball assistant coach Scott Davenport, are ranked as the nation’s top team in Division II men’s basketball. The Knights presented a tough first challenge for an untested Louisville team.
Junior V. J. King led the Cards in scoring with 17 points and six rebounds, despite a nonproductive first half. Junior Steven Enoch posted 14 points and five rebounds, and junior Dwayne Sutton added an important eight points off the bench.
Sophomore Darius Perry got things going with the first score of the season: A steal on the defensive side leading to a fast-break dunk.
Bellarmine answered with a three-pointer and Louisville missed their next four shots. It was a low-scoring 3-2 at the first media timeout.
The Cards continued to miss the basket with six more missed shots for 1-for-11 from the field, including o-for-8 from three-point range. The Knights shot nearly as poor and led 5-3 with 12 minutes to play.
After a mostly stagnant half, Enoch got his first basket in the paint. Sophomore Jordan Nwora followed with a fast-break dunk and pair of free throws for a 9-6 lead.
The Knights converted another three and tied the game 9-9. At this point, both teams combined for a measly 5-for-33 from the field.
Bellarmine began to pick things up and Louisville struggled to keep up, trailing 18-16 with three minutes to play.
The Cards ended the half with a 10-0 run for a 26-18 lead at halftime. Sutton lifted the Cards with eight straight points, including the only three-pointer of the half.
King scored seven straight points to begin the half. The co-captain played with a much more dominating presence on offense in the second half.
The Knights picked up steam by taking advantage of the three-point shot and lax defense in the paint by the Cards. They led 40-39 after a 14-3 run.
Enoch surprised the crowd and got things going with back-to-back three pointers. Nwora followed with another three for a 49-40 Louisville lead.
Bellarmine continued to force turnovers on defense and stay close to Louisville with a scrappy offense. They trailed 57-50 with three minutes to play.
The Knights piled on pressure with a full-court press but failed to come closer than five points of the lead. U of L won the game 71-60.
It took a long time for Louisville’s offense to get going, which is understandable considering Bellarmine was their first outside opponent.
Nonetheless, the Cards need to clean up sloppy play like turnovers, forced shots and poor defense in the paint. They allowed 48 points down low and the Knights had 16 points off turnovers.
Sophomore Jordan Nwora scored 10 points, but shot only 2-for-13 from the field. Graduate student Christian Cunningham had a good second half, but committed a team-high four turnovers as point guard.
If U of L is to succeed against their upcoming schedule, which happens to be one of the toughest ever, they must improve and get rid of their inconsistencies.
King needs to stay consistent
King led the team with 17 points, but most of those came in the second half. The junior shot 1-for-8 in the first half along with the rest of a low-scoring team.
V. J. has the potential to be Louisville’s leading scorer and leading man. If he can put together two halves of superior play, King will turn out to be a big problem for opposing defenders.
Inside-game could use some work
Enoch scored 14 points, but only four of those points came in the paint. The center had a productive second half and rebounded well, but his team didn’t do much to get him the ball.
Head coach Chris Mack has previously said this is a small team, and that they need to find creative ways to score. The Cardinals need to do better in utilizing their big man once they start to face tougher opponents.
Men’s basketball continues exhibition play on Saturday, Nov. 3 in a home matchup with Simmons College of Kentucky.
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Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal