LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The primary strength of the University of Louisville basketball team heading into this season was presumed to be its offense.

The Cards have capable shooters at all five positions, and capable shooters coming off the bench. So to see the offensive lapses that have stalled the team at times in the early season was a bit confusing – unless you take into account the obvious (playing for a first-time coach who was given the job a day before the season started and who couldn’t even complete his staff for a couple of weeks after that).

Given all that’s gone on, any bumps in the road should be understood. But on Saturday in Madison Square Garden, the Cardinals flashed some perimeter shooting that might well be ready for prime time – even if it was in a noon game.

Louisville made a season-high 14 three-point shots (out of 26 attempts) and shot 46 percent from the field to pull away from Memphis 81-72.

The game followed a bit of a familiar script for the Cards. They got out to a 13-point lead in the first half, then went passive as Memphis clawed back even just before halftime.

Louisville took control early in the second half, however, behind the three-point shooting of Deng Adel and Quentin Snider, outscoring Memphis 22-11 in the first 10 minutes of the half and holding off the Tigers down the stretch, in part with 11 of 12 shooting from the free-throw line.

Louisville got 19 points from Snider, who continued to put daylight between himself and his early-season shooting slump. He made 6 of 10 shots in the game, 3 of 4 from three-point range. He also dished out five assists. Deng Adel added 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range.

David Padgett, who got his first coaching win outside of the KFC Yum! Center on one of the most famous arenas in the world, credited the team’s offensive improvement with improved passing and spacing.

“Our guys are starting to do a good job of getting into the lane and finding other people,” Padgett said. “Greg Paulus has been really instrumental in getting that together. We’ve been putting tape on the court and putting it where we want guys to be, and we’re getting to those spots.”

As a result, the Cards are in better position to catch and shoot. Adel, in particular, is finding a comfort zone from the outside. Ryan McMahon also hit a pair of three-pointers on Saturday.

While the inside-outside balance on Saturday isn’t what the Cards want every night, there’s no question that against the better teams on its schedule, Louisville is going to have to be a better-than-average perimeter shooting team to win.

On Saturday, their field goals were split, 14 from two-point range and 14 from three-point range. But while they shot 53.8 percent from beyond the arc, they made just 14 percent of their two-point tries. They didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half.

“Louisville did a great job making shots, made a bunch of three's and that was challenge for us, and they have a good inside and outside game,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “I am proud of how our guys competed today. For some of them it was the first time in New York and playing at Madison Square Garden."

Memphis made several runs at Louisville in the second half, but Padgett said he’s happy with the way his team is beginning to respond to runs.

“Every time they went on a run, we responded and went on a run of our own,” he said.

The Cardinals also blocked 14 shots, but gave up 15 offensive rebounds and were outscored 14-6 on second-chance points. Opponents are rebounding 31 percent of their missed shots against Louisville this season, perhaps the most alarming stat on the team’s early-season ledger. On the plus side, Louisville is blocking nearly 21 percent of the shots attempted against it.

“We did a good job defensively on our first-stop defense,” Padgett said. “We blocked 14 shots, but it just seemed like every time we’d block a shot they’d run it down.”

V.J. King continued his improvement of the past two games. He’s been more active driving the basketball, and getting the offense moving by getting into the lane. Over the past two games, he’s distributed well, and on Saturday he got to the rim and finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

Ray Spalding finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Anas Mahmoud had four points and seven blocked shots.

The Cards get a few practice days before their next game – a Wednesday night visit from Albany, which will be the highest-ranked Gotham Classic opponent for Louisville. Tipoff is at 9 p.m.

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