CRAWFORD | Louisville again lax with a lead, but beats St. Francis 84-72
Louisville once again blew out to a big lead, then let off the gas before finishing St. Francis off 84-72 on Friday in the KFC Yum! Center.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They had a Frisbee-chasing dog as the halftime entertainment Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center, which was a bit fitting, because this University of Louisville basketball team is a little like a new puppy.
These Cardinals will play with a team for a little while, and then appear to lose interest. In the case of St. Francis on Friday, that point came with 12:38 to play in the game, and Louisville leading by 22.
From that point on, St. Francis outscored Louisville by 10, turning what was on its way to being a second-straight blowout into another closer-than-expected Cardinals victory, 84-72 in front of a Black Friday crowd of 17,524.
“I think we did play to the score a little bit down the stretch,” senior Anas Mahmoud said. “You look up and you’re up 22, and all of a sudden you lose a couple of guys on three-pointers and it’s a closer game.”
“I think we just chill out a little,” after building a lead, point guard Quentin Snider said during the week.
Whatever the case, Louisville’s chill-out opportunities will be gone for a while, with a trip to No. 18 Purdue coming Tuesday and a visit from No. 20 Seton Hall a week from Sunday.
Still, the No. 19 Cardinals improved to 4-0, and had little difficulty doing it. But some of the same red flags that have shown themselves in their three other victories remained evident on Friday: A lack of ball pressure, difficulty closing out an overmatched opponent and problems on the defensive glass, where Louisville was outrebounded 23-20.
One game after Louisville got 41 points from its freshman class, Padgett used just eight players and his bench was outscored 20-19.
“I had a weird feeling it was going to be a game like that,” Padgett said. “Even dating back to when I played, you play a team that’s small, they’re all quick, and they’re quick off the dribble, they get in the lane and they do a good job of penetrating, no matter what you try to do it’s tough to keep in front of them. And they do a good job of spacing and the one kid for them got it going for them. But 4-0 is the most important thing at the end of the day, obviously. We have to do a better job, our guards especially, of coming back to rebound the ball.”
Ray Spalding had a double-double by halftime and finished with 19 points and career highs of 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Anas Mahmoud added 12 points and nine rebounds while Deng Adel had 13 points and four assists.
St. Francis got 25 points and 11 rebounds from guard Keith Braxton, and went 10-of-21 from three-point range to keep the game respectable.
“I was proud of the way our guys battled,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “If you look at the rebounding numbers, our guys out-rebounded a team that is really athletic and long. . . . Our guys could have certainly hung their heads with 10 minutes to go down 20. That could very easily have gone to 30 or 40, but I was proud of the way they battled back.”
St. Francis twice cut its deficit to eight points down the stretch, before Louisville went up 16 with just under a minute to play.
Much of the St. Francis comeback happened after Spalding left the game with an injury. He went down holding an ankle, but walked off under his own power and Padgett said, “I think he’s OK. It didn’t seem like anything serious.”
Padgett said his rotation patterns were a bit different in this game because of the smaller opponent. Malik Williams, for instance, didn’t play in this game, but will be expected to play a more significant role at Purdue.
Quentin Snider finished with 11 points and 6 assists for Louisville. V.J. King and Jordan Nwora had 10 points each.
As for his team after the first four games, Padgett sees potential, but also some pitfalls.
“I love our team, I really do,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be really, really good. We have a lot to work on, but all things considered so far, I think if you would have told me seven weeks ago we’d be 4-0 after the first four games I’d have sold my soul for it. We’re in a good spot, but like I said it gets harder in a hurry, so we’ve got to improve.”
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