LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The warning signs were there that Furman would be a dangerous game for the University of Louisville basketball team.
All it required was some basic research. The Paladins took Alabama and Cincinnati to the wire last season. They pounded Loyola (Chicago) two seasons ago. In the three seasons before COVID, Furman averaged nearly 25 wins.
That’s not going to make Saturday morning brighter for the Cards. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that Furman was legit — until the Paladins rolled into the KFC Yum! Center and beat Louisville, 80-72, in overtime Friday night.
Nothing fluky about it. Mark it down as the first game Louisville has lost in the KFC Yum! Center in November, ending a streak of 46 victories. In fact, counting games in Freedom Hall, the Cards had won 59 straight November home games.
Furman beat Louisville on the glass. They made more shots from distance. They shot more free throws. And they led for longer stretches of time. They were better.
Add it up and the Cards have split the first two games of their season without suspended head coach Chris Mack — and face another dangerous game Monday against a Navy team that has already defeated Virginia.
“It’s unfortunate to lose a buy game to anybody, even an NCAA Tournament team,” said assistant coach Mike Pegues. “Needless to say, it’s incredibly disappointing that we didn’t get the win.”
Louisville fell behind, 21-10, in the first nine minutes. Furman stretched the lead to a dozen but Louisville surged to a 4-point halftime lead.
The lead changed four times in the second half when Louisville went ahead 54-53 on a three-pointer by Jae’Lyn Withers with 9:19 to play. The Cards led for the next 8 minutes until a free throw by Furman’s Garrett Hien tied the game at 67 with 1:04 to play.
Neither team scored for the remainder of regulation. Withers and Noah Locke both missed three-pointers for U of L during that stretch.
Furman ruled overtime, outscoring the Cards, 13-5. Hien made a quick layup. The Paladins scored the first seven points as Louisville missed its first four shots before Locke made a jumper with 2:16 to play. He would also add a three for Louisville’s only overtime points as the Cards went 2 for 10 in the extra period.
“Of course I was upset,” Locke said. “I felt like we should have won the game. We just couldn’t score … if the ball isn't going in, you’ve got to get stops.
Here are the items that should sting:
1.) Furman out-rebounded Louisville, 43-41, earning a draw with both teams scoring 24 points in the paint. If that happens against a team from the Southern Conference, sirens will sounds when the Cardinals upgrade to Atlantic Coast Conference competition.
“Not tough enough,” Pegues said. “Not tough enough. The glass is a toughness category. It's a toughness statistic. You either run in there and it's more important to you to get it or it's not. And tonight it wasn’t more important to us to come up with defensive rebounds ...
"We can't defensive rebound. They out-rebounded us by 2, a Southern Conference team, that's a really good team, an NCAA Tournament team. If it's an ACC team, I'm saying the same thing.
"We've got to be able to own our backboard We've got to be able to guard the ball and we've got to be in the right place off the ball."
2.) If protecting the glass was an issue for the frontcourt, the backcourt didn’t have anybody who could stay in front of Mike Bothwell, Furman’s 6-foot, 3-inch senior guard.
Bothwell led Furman in scoring last season at 15.6 points per game. Against Louisville Bothwell nearly doubled that average. Bothwell scored 15 points in the second half and 5 more in overtime, finishing with a game high 30.
He punished Louisville with three shots from distance. When the Cards tried to crowd him, Bothwell attacked the rim and feasted at the free throw line, making 13 of 15.
"The fact that we give Mike Bothwell, who's a really, really good player, he's conference player of the year type player but he can't get 30," Pegues said. "He can't get 30.
“We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to make the game a lot harder on him. That’s way too many trips to the line.
“We’ve got way too many guys in the locker room capable of guarding him who didn’t get the job done today.”
3.) The Cards were hardly an efficient offensive team, averaging well under a point per possession (.960). They missed 22 of 29 three-point shots.
Malik Williams (1 for 8) and Samuell Williamson (1 for 6), the team’s two most experienced players, combined for 5 points.
Locke led Louisville with 20 points, but needed 19 shots to get there. He also led Louisville with three turnovers. Withers had 14 on a night when Withers and Locke took nearly half (34) of Louisville’s 69 shots.
The Cards had only seven offensive rebounds but none by Williamson or Withers.
“Our guys put forth a decent effort but not a good enough effort to beat a good team like Furman,” Pegues said. “We need to improve in every facet of the game.”
Locke was asked if the problem was the Cards being without their head coach. He said that Mack was obviously the team’s leader but Louisville has to prove it can win without him for the next four games.
“It’s not about who’s coaching,” Locke said. “It’s about us playing the game.”
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.