By Matt Bradshaw and Micah Brown —
Men’s basketball (6-3) lost its first true road game of the season against Indiana (8-2). The Cardinals controlled the first half and led by one with two minutes to play, but failed to close it out and fell 68-67.
“We didn’t close well,” graduate guard Christen Cunningham said. “We started sharp and we had some mental breakdowns and have to finish better.”
In the final minutes, the defeat became reminiscent of Louisville’s two previous losses to Tennessee and Marquette. U of L led during the first half of both games and dropped the ball at the end.
Today, the Cards made their first visit to Assembly Hall in 15 years and looked to add to a three-game winning streak. They also hoped to even the all-time series between U of L/IU at 10-10, and the prospect of doing so looked positive in the first half.
Head coach Chris Mack and his squad led the home team for over 30 minutes throughout the contest, with their largest edge reaching eight points in the first half.
From there, the Hoosier offense continued attacking the basket and reaching the foul line. Indiana finished the game with 25 free throw attempts, dwarfing Louisville’s usual point-of-advantage at 13 attempts.
Sophomore Jordan Nwora guided the Cardinal offense with a double-double, producing a career-high in points (24) and rebounds (14). The Hoosier duo of Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan offset Nwora’s performance with a combined 36 points.
Freshman Langford, who leads the Big Ten conference in free throw attempts, reached the foul line 14 times (more than the whole Louisville team combined).
Cunningham continued to be a solid leader for U of L with poise and passing. He finished the contest with 16 points and three assists.
The raucous atmosphere at Assembly Hall did not seem to phase the U of L players at first, as they jumped out to an 8-2 run to start the game. Nwora made his presence felt everywhere by scoring 11 points in the first half, including a nifty behind-the-back dribble followed by a posterizing dunk.
“It is definitely different playing here,” Nwora said. “Probably one of the craziest atmosphere’s we will play in all year.”
Indiana’s Langford prevented the Cardinals from expanding their lead in the first half. Langford matched Nwora’s point production and converted on four of his seven shot attempts for 11 points in the first twenty minutes.
Neither team was able to jump out to a substantial lead in the second half. Between the two teams, there were seven lead changes and three ties until Indiana took control in the game’s final minutes.
A three-pointer by the Hoosiers’ Phinesee put Indiana in the lead for good, marking a 60-58 lead with 1:25 remaining. Two missed three-point shots by Louisville’s McMahon and Nwora sealed the team’s fate.
IU then clinched the win with free throws. Cunningham converted a half-court shot as time expired, bringing the final score to 68-67.
Louisville’s next road game approaches one month from now. Until then, they begin a five-game home stand next week.
Before the Indiana loss, the Cards found themselves placed at No. 24 nationally in the NCAA Net rankings. The defeat should knock them down a few notches.
Men’s basketball hosts Lipscomb on Wednesday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photos by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal