By Matt Bradshaw —
Men’s basketball (3-0) passed its first true test of the season with a 86-78 defeat of the Vermont Catamounts (2-2). Louisville led by 22 points in the second half before Vermont came surging back near the lead.
U of L has more challenging tests to come, but Vermont is a proven-tough opponent. The Catamounts are favorites to win the American East conference and held their own against No. 2 Kansas earlier this week.
“I thought our team, for the first 32 minutes, played as well as we have all year against a really good team,” head coach Chris Mack. “I love our team and I think we’re going to continue to get better.”
The first half was hard-fought with six ties and six lead changes. The Cards ended up on top 45-35, then carried their momentum through the second half to weather the late run from the opponent.
Jordan Nwora powered the offense with a career-high 22 points. This is the sophomore’s second consecutive game with 20-plus points off the bench.
“He’s far from perfect,” Mack said of Nwora. “He’s a big-time offensive-talent, and my quest is to keep him getting better.”
Sophomore Darius Perry demonstrated how much his offensive prowess has increased. The guard finished with 17 points and 60 percent shooting from the field.
“I think I got the role of the hype man,” Perry said. “Coming out aggressive is a thing I’ve always done.”
Junior Steven Enoch proved, with little doubt, that his powerful presence in the paint is one of Louisville’s most important weapons. The big man posted 14 points and 75 percent shooting from the field, including a jumper from deep and a couple monster dunks.
Overall, the Cardinal offense played its season-best. The team shot 53 percent from the field, 42 percent from deep and 79 percent from the free-throw line. The players recorded 14 assists on 26 field goals and out-rebounded the Catamounts on both ends of the floor.
The defense faltered somewhat as Vermont found its footing late in the second half, but that much is expected from talented teams. If Louisville can continue its offensive efficiency and positive production from everyone on the floor, there’s plenty of room for growth against an extremely difficult upcoming schedule.
Each of the juniors performed well throughout the game. V. J. King finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Ryan McMahon performed great off the bench with eight points, along with the best plus/minus total out of everyone on the team (18). Dwayne Sutton worked the floor for four points, five rebounds and an assist.
Sophomore Malik Williams played great when he took the place of Enoch on the floor and finished with five points and five rebounds.
Men’s basketball travels to New York to face Tennessee in the NIT tip-off Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 5 p.m.
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Photos by Karen Nguyen / The Louisville Cardinal