LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Here’s what was better in the University of Louisville’s third straight defeat in the Maui Invitational and their sixth straight to open the tenure of new coach Kenny Payne.
The Cardinals had more balanced scoring and seemed to operate a bit better with a tweaked starting lineup, with J.J. Traynor jumping in for Sydney Curry. The Cardinals played a 3-3 Cincinnati team toe-to-toe in the first half of the seventh-place game in Maui.
But in the end, it was very much the same second-half story – turnovers, long droughts and some familiar defensive lapses allowed Cincinnati to pull away for an 81-62 win in the Lahaina Civic Center.
For the tournament, Louisville led for just under 7 of the 120 minutes it played, most of that coming in the 4:38 it led Cincinnati Wednesday night.
Cincinnati ran past Louisville, outscoring the Cardinals in fast-break points and 18-9 off turnovers. The Bearcats made 12 threes to just 3 for Louisville.
Considering those stats, it’s a bit surprising that Louisville didn’t lose by more, but the Cardinals did play a bit better in the paint and shot it a bit better, 43.1 percent for the game.
But aided by easy fast-break chances, UC shot 62 percent in the second half and 53 percent for the game.
“They shot 61 percent (in the second half),” Louisville coach Kenny Payne told Bob Valvano on his Tom Drexler Coach’s Corner postgame interview from Learfield Sports and ESPN Louisville. “We didn’t contest shots. One kid goes off for 26. Another goes off for 21. Who can you beat if a team shoots 61 percent? We have to be desperate defensively. It’s unfortunate, because I thought we did a lot of good things. Anybody can beat you if you have a lull where you decide, ‘I want to trade baskets.’ We’re not good enough to trade baskets.”
Louisville had four players score in double-figures, led by Brandon Huntley-Hatfield with 15 points. El Ellis added 13 and Traynor and Kamari Lands added 10 each. But Cincinnati was led by David DeJulius, whose 6 three-pointers set him on his way to a 26-point night, with Landers Nolley adding 21 points, powered by 5 three-pointers.
The Cardinals got just six points in 30 minutes from Jae’lyn Withers and got no points in 10 minutes from Curry coming off the bench.
“(The first half) shows we’re capable, but it requires 100 percent focus, 100 percent effort,” Payne told Valvano. “It requires that our leaders, our veterans, our captains, they can’t have bad or bad moments. We have no wiggle room. And if one guy, two guys, decide to go south, it’s devastating to us.”
Now the Cardinals make the long trek back from Maui, still in search of their first win. The chase won’t get any easier. They’ll face Maryland, which is 5-0 and ranked No. 23 nationally, next Tuesday night at 7 in the KFC Yum! Center.
“The schedule doesn’t do us any favors, but we’re going to keep fighting, keep trying,” Payne said. “I haven’t given up. I’m not discouraged at all. We’ve just got to work harder.”
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