By Spencer Laws 

The Louisville men’s basketball team (1-9) picked up their first regular-season win in the Kenny Payne era against in-state foe Western Kentucky (8-2). 

Wednesday night showed a glimpse of hope that many fans have been waiting for up until this point— the nine games prior displayed a team that looked like they barely wanted to compete on the court. 

This team was hustling on fast breaks, diving for loose balls, all around just playing with a lot more energy; something plenty of Cards fans hoped Payne would instill in his players in his first years holding the keys to his alma mater. 

Numerous players transferred in and out of the program, leaving Payne with a completely different team from last year. When the losses began much of the fanbase began to point fingers at KP and the new coaching staff.

Head coach of Western Kentucky, Rick Stansbury, is happy for Payne and what it will mean going forward for him in his first year. 

“I’m proud that he got a win, just didn’t want it to be against us. So you guys get off of him some up here. I didn’t want him to beat us, I didn’t want to be the first. But again, I’ve kept things in perspective with the team. Fans don’t do that sometimes.”

What Worked

El Ellis is a big reason why the Cards picked up that win Wednesday night, torching the Hilltoppers. Ellis finished the game with 30 points and 10 assists, recording his first career double-double. He’s the first Cardinal to put up a 30-10 game since Reese Gains did back in 2002 against TCU. 

Freshman Kamari Lands added a career-high 15 points off the bench, but both were two of five players to end up in double figures.

Jae’lyn Withers finished with 10 points, Sydney Curry added 10 more, and Brandon Huntley Hatfield rounded out the group with 11 points.

The all-around offensive performance was by far the best we have seen this season. U of L ended the game shooting an impressive 54.4% from the field. As a team, they also knocked down another season-high of 13 threes (in 25 attempts), 17 assists, and a remarkable 94 points. 

WKU was able to heavily out-rebound the Cardinals, grabbing 37 to their 29. Of those 83 points, 42 came from the paint. 

Point guard Davion McKnight, a Louisville native, controlled the pace of the Hilltoppers and challenged the Cards with 25 points and five offensive rebounds.

The Cards look to double up their wins this Saturday, as Florida A&M comes to town to face off at 2 P.M.