LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – George Mason did not get the memo designating Sunday as a 40-Minute Feel Good moment for David Padgett’s debut as the interim basketball coach at the University of Louisville.

The Patriots weren’t here to be a prop or a sideshow. They didn’t show up to take pictures of the KFC Yum! Center or go home with only their guarantee appearance check. They were more irritating than a broken shoelace.

On a day the Cardinals were favored by 19, Louisville rallied over the last nine minutes to defeat George Mason, 72-61, at the KFC Yum! Center. Expect Padgett to confirm that it was the closest 11-point game he has ever seen. Because it was.

Deng Adel led Louisville with 20 points, attacking like the alpha male the Cardinals need. But credit a pair of unflappable freshmen – Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora – for their considerable contributions to the Cardinals’ opening win.

Perry had 17. Nwora had 10. Both were a perfect 3-for-3 from distance.  Louisville finished with eight three-point field goals. The freshmen had six of them. Make sure you notice that Perry also made all eight of his free throws. He pitched a perfect game.

This one got wobbly for Louisville from the opening possession. Adel missed an open three-point attempt from the left corner. George Mason scored the first two times the Patriots had the ball.

Consider that foreshadowing of what was to come over the complete 40 minutes. Louisville labored from the perimeter. George Mason played without fear or hesitation. 

The visitors pushed to a 14-8 lead. Energized by Perry, Louisville scored the next nine points. The Cards built a 19-15 lead. It didn’t last.

By halftime they trailed 27-24, a gift created by a traveling call against Ray Spalding that gave the visitors an opening for Jaire Grayer to end the first half with a three-pointer. It wasn't what the crowd of 18,304 anticipated.

In the second half, George Mason stretched its advantage to six points three times. They led 44-38.

Freshmen made certain the Cardinals had a game ball to award Padgett. Nwora scored from the left corner to push Louisville ahead for the first time in the second half, 49-46. Perry followed with a three to build the lead to six.

George Mason did not disappear. They rallied to close within 54-53 before Nwora made another shot from the left corner in front of the Louisville bench.

Nwora was not finished. He arrived in Louisville with a reputation for rebounding as much as shooting but Nwora changed the scouting report in one game because he made another three from the left wing. Louisville led 60-55. A free throw by Nwora increased the lead to six. Louisville took it from there, playing the required defense to close out the persistent visitors.

The Cards had issues. They could not make shots from the perimeter. Subtract Perry and Nwora and the rest of Padgett's team was 2 for 14 from distance. The Patriots started one guy taller than 6 feet 4 and went toe to toe with the considerably taller Cardinals on the glass. Louisville outrebounded the smaller visitors by five. Credit Louisville with only seven offensive rebounds.

Louisville has five days to regroup. The Cardinals will play host to Omaha Friday, the first of four home games to open the season before they visit Purdue Nov. 28.

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