By Matt Bradshaw —
It’s always great to get a win on Senior Day. Men’s basketball (19-11, 10-7) did just that with a 75-61 victory over Notre Dame (13-16, 3-13), breaking the team’s three-game losing streak.
Louisville’s performance lagged in the first half before the energy picked up on both ends in the second. The Cardinals shot a poor 2-for-22 from three-point range, though they held 46-26 advantage in the paint with solid individual performances.
“I’m happy for our group,” head coach Chris Mack said. “This league can rob your confidence at times, playing some of the best teams in the country. To be able to go out on Senior Day the right way, being able to face all the adversity, I’m really happy for them. I’m happy for our three seniors who chose Louisville in a very tough time, providing stability both as players but more importantly as people.”
Sophomore Jordan Nwora scored 20 points with 11 rebounds. Sophomore Malik Williams recorded his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Junior V. J. King posted solid minutes off the bench with six points, a career-high 10 rebounds and two assists.
Before the game, Mack honored his three graduate transfers: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore and Akoy Agau.
As a sixth-year senior, Agau has the most interesting story out of the graduates. He started his collegiate career at Louisville during the 2013-14 season, later playing at Georgetown and SMU.
Agau hasn’t logged too many minutes off the bench this year, but he showed up when the team needed it and provided leadership in his final season
“We’re talking about a guy who didn’t have any formal education until he was 10 years old,” Mack said. “His family was torn apart by a civil war over in Africa. He made it all the way to the United States. Now, for the second time in his career, he’s called Louisville home. He’ll always be a Cardinal.”
Fore chose to attend Louisville for graduate school after playing at Richmond in past seasons. He helped the Spiders advance to the NIT quarterfinals as a sophomore and threw down dunks that found a place on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
This year, Fore has worked his way to a starting role as the season progressed.
“He’s a kid that had so much humility when he showed up in June for the very first time on our campus,” Mack said. “He was a guy that, early on in the season, didn’t play but spot minutes. He never complained. He kept working. He’s become one of the best defensive players in the entire ACC. He had the same approach each and every day, and that will carry him for the rest of his life. He’ll always have a place here in Louisville.”
Cunningham turned in a solid career at Samford before transferring to Louisville. The Georgetown native’s 514 career assists remain a school record at Samford.
As captain and point guard for the Cardinals, Cunningham has become the team’s prime facilitator and constantly drives the team to win.
“I was scouring the internet because all of these grad transfers kept telling Louisville, ‘No.’ Then I come across, on a transfer list, a kid named Christen Cunningham,” Mack said. “I started doing a little more homework and said, ‘Man, this kid’s from Kentucky.’ Then I found out he’s from close to Lexington so it made me cringe a bit. I found out his brother is a former student manager here at Louisville and the more people I talked to said, ‘You have to add him, coach. He’s a winner.’ His whole life he was told he was too small, too short, not athletic enough. He’s turned himself into one of the best point guards in our league. They say, ‘If your point guard is an extension of your coach, good things happen.’ I couldn’t ask for a better extension than Christen Cunningham.”
Louisville men’s basketball travels to face Virginia for its regular season finale on Saturday, March 9 at 4 p.m.
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Photos by Matt Bradshaw / The Louisville Cardinal