BOZICH | Snider, McMahon help Louisville avoid its Wofford moment
Louisville was tested by Albany Wednesday night but the Cardinals improved to 9-2.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – No stains on the resume.
No Division I coach will ever frame the concept the way I framed it. But avoiding unexpected losses – stains on the NCAA Tournament resume -- has to be a prime non-conference goal of every program.
Win the big ones you can. But don’t lose any you’re not supposed to lose.
Notre Dame had its Ball State moment. Florida had its Loyola moment. USC failed against Princeton.
Wofford 79, North Carolina 75.
“Really?” Louisville center Anas Mahmoud said.
Only two games remain on Louisville’s non-conference schedule but David Padgett’s team has not endured an unexpected loss.
There were rumors one could arrive Wednesday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Didn’t happen. The Cardinals escaped an Albany team that would not surprise anybody by claiming the America East’s spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Make it Louisville 70, Albany 68.
The Cards trailed 65-62 with 2 ½ minutes to play. They were still down by a point into the final two minutes.
There’s more. Albany forward Devonte Campbell launched a three-point shot from the left wing in the final second. Louisville defender Deng Adel lunged at Campbell as he released the shot.
A look at the replay suggested Adel whacked Campbell on his right arm. I asked Adel if he got away with one on his homecourt.
“I think I did,” Adel said.
Bump the Cards to 9-2, beating all the teams they were supposed to beat and losing to Purdue and Seton Hall by a combined 11 points.
“That’s a good team,” Louisville guard Ryan McMahon said. “They’ve outrebounded every team they played this year by about 10.”
The Great Danes outrebounded Louisville by 15. The visitors collected 21 offensive rebounds to Louisville’s seven. They had 13 second-chance points. Louisville had none. That formula won't work in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Cards won because their overall defense limited Albany to a 36.5 percent shooting night and because Louisville made 9 of 21 threes. McMahon tied his career high by making five shots from distance. He did it in eight attempts. His seventh attempt was swatted away in the left corner. His eighth attempt put Louisville ahead 69-65 with 62 seconds to play.
McMahon launched it without hesitation.
“Ryan is always going to shoot the ball because he always thinks it’s going in,” Adel said.
“A little stressful,” Padgett said, taking a long swig of water while beginning his post-game press conference.
“But it’s always better to learn in a win than a loss … I’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling a lot better being 9-2 than 8-3.”
“If you walk in our locker room right now you would have thought we lost the national championship,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “Our guys were upset. They thought they played well enough to win. They thought they outcompeted Louisville.”
Reasonable minds would agree with that. Albany played without fear. Louisville did not play poorly, the Cards simply did not attack the glass with enough vigor.
Padgett tried to crank up the defensive pressure. The Cardinals extended their defense throughout much of the first half. They pressed to speed the pace as well as to make Albany’s ball-handlers uncomfortable. They chased Albany’s shooters off the three-point line. They generated one shot clock violation in first half and two in the second.
It worked. The visitors missed 12 of their first 16 shots. Joe Cremo, Albany’s leading scorer at nearly 18 points per game, missed his first two shots and failed to score until making a three from the left corner at 10:46.
Padgett was so perturbed that Cremo was unguarded that he immediately asked for timeout.
Seemed like it. The Cardinals scored the next eight points, six on a pair of shots from distance by McMahon. From there the Cards eased to a 38-31 lead at halftime.
The defensive pressure continued in the second half, although at times the Cards were a bit careless. They were called for three fouls in less than three minutes, including one that sent Ray Spalding to the bench with his third.
The Cards spurted to a 43-35 lead but lost focus, allowing a rebound basket before a Adel turnover led to a layup by Joe Nichols.
Padgett burned his second timeout with 14:21 to play.
I believe Padgett should have burned all of his timeouts. The first thing the Cardinals did out of the timeout was set up McMahon for another three. Then Quentin Snider hit one from distance before Snider made a fancy, spinning drive down the right side of the line that resulted in a three-point play and a 52-41 Louisville lead.
The Cardinals navigated a bumpy landing from there. They played the final 53 seconds without Snider, after he fell on the ball in a scrum and had two players fall on him. Snider, who led Louisville with 19 points, should be fine for Louisville’s next game.
McMahon finished with 15 while Adel had 13. Dwayne Sutton did not score but did rebound like crazy, grabbing nine.
The Cardinals return home to play Dan Majerle’s Grand Canyon squad at 1 p.m. Saturday. After that the Cards have five days to prepare for their Dec. 29 trip to Rupp Arena.
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