Thu. Apr 18th, 2019

Sluggish season-opening victory kindles the Chris Mack era

By Matt Bradshaw —

Men’s basketball (1-0) began the era of head coach Chris Mack with a 85-72 victory over the Nicholls Colonels (0-1). U of L used its depth to outlast Nicholls, while the Colonels turned in an intense defensive performance to constantly keep themselves near the lead.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Mack said post-game. “We’ve got to get a lot better in a hurry.”

The win marked the third time in nearly 50 years that Louisville started the season with a new head coach (not including interim coaches). Mack takes the torch from Hall of Famers Denny Crum and Rick Pitino.

Though far from sold out, fans were loud and proud on a weeknight game night at the KFC Yum! Center. Card Nation witnessed an interesting team introduction with the lights dimmed, pyrotechnics blazing and lasers streaking.

The Cards held a comfortable lead in the first half and throughout much of the second. With frequent use of the three-point shot and foul-heavy defense, the Colonels came roaring back in the second half to make the home crowd nervous.

Eight players put points on the board in a productive team-performance. Mack’s squad proved they had grit and hustle plays to spare, but sloppiness was the name of the game in an unclean performance.

When asked how his first win as a Cardinal coach felt, Mack responded “not good.”

“I don’t think we played very well,” Mack said. “I don’t think we were very tough and we have tougher games coming.”

Junior Steven Enoch led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds, including 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Sophomore Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora put up double-digit points, with 14 and 12 respectively.

Junior captain V. J. King posted 10 points, but only 1-for-6 shooting from the field.

Sophomore Dwayne Sutton played well all-around with nine points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Junior Ryan McMahon recorded eight important first half points off the bench.

First half

Perry and Sutton hit a pair of three-pointers to get things going.

Hiccups followed the quick start as the Cardinals turned the ball over four times. McMahon boosted the team forward with eight points, along with smart defensive plays, to provide momentum off the bench.

Nwora subbed in and helped the offense on an 11-0 run with a pair of fast-break layups, including a skillful euro step. U of L led Nicholls 23-13 with six minutes to play.

The Colonels answered with a run of their own, nailing a pair of three’s and bringing the score to 25-21.

With the Cards in the bonus, Mack’s team took advantage by taking the ball to the rim and drawing fouls. Ten points from free throws made the score 35-25 at halftime.

Second half

Nicholls kept the game close with a 18-13 scoring edge following halftime. The Colonels took advantage of the three-point shot and Cardinal turnovers to bring the score to 48-43.

Perry continued a stellar scoring night with a three-pointer to turn the tide. Nicholls continued a night of intensive fouling to put Louisville in the bonus again and provide their opponent with chances at the line.

Enoch asserted himself in the paint and free throw line for some quick points. U of L led Nicholls 63-50 with 7:51 to play in the contest.

The depth of the Cards began to win out with Nicholls players in foul trouble, but the Colonels brought themselves right back with three-pointers and forced turnovers. The closest score read 68-66 with three minutes to play.

U of L went on to win the game by breaking their opponents press, finishing layups and converting free throws. They won 85-72.

Men’s basketball hosts Southern University on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photos by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal

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