NASHVILLE (WDRB) -- With a chance to ascend to the No. 1 ranking in college basketball, the No. 2-ranked University of Louisville basketball team did nothing to hurt its case against Western Kentucky University in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
This was a Black Friday beatdown. The Cardinals grabbed a nine-point lead before the game was seven minutes old, and WKU never got closer than that as Louisville cruised to a 71-54 win.
Preseason All-American Jordan Nwora led the way for Louisville finishing with 25 points and going 4 of 9 from three-point range. Dwayne Sutton had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Malik Williams came off the bench to play effective defense against WKU big man Charles Bassey and finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds himself.
Now the wait begins for Louisville to see if it will ascend to the top spot in the Associated Press rankings on Monday. Cardinals' coach Chris Mack said it doesn't matter to him whether his team does or doesn't, especially with a matchup against red-hot winner of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Michigan, ahead on Tuesday night in the KFC Yum! Center.
"My job is for me to get them to understand that we haven’t arrived," Mack said of his players and a possible No. 1-ranking. "No team has arrived. A lot of people are saying we haven’t played anybody. Maybe we aren’t deserving. I really don’t care. All I care about is improving from this game against WKU. If we were to get the No. 1 ranking on Monday and lose on Tuesday, we wouldn’t be the first to lose it as soon as we got it. I really am more concerned about the game on Tuesday."
WKU fell behind 9-0 early, missing some easy shots, and never could find a good offensive rhythm. The Hilltoppers shot just 37 percent from the field, made only 1 of 17 three-point tries and were dominated on the boards, 39-25.
Mack lifted his starters with just over three minutes to play and the Cardinals up by 21.
"Congratulations to Louisville. It's very obvious why they'll be the No. 1 team come Monday," WKU coach Rick Stansbury said. "They don't have a lot of holes. They do two things better than anyone else in the country. They have multiple weapons, and multiple big guys to throw it to in the paint. Not a lot of teams in the country have that. They can score at all five positions."
Bassey finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Trey Hollingsworth led WKU with 16 points.
"When you dig yourself a hole and don't shoot it well, that's a tough grind against that kind of team," Stansbury said.
Mack credited Williams' defense for keeping Bassey in check.
"Coming into the game I know our team had great respect for WKU," he said. "They have a very talented team, and when Bassey gets going they're really tough to stop. For us, I thought Malik Williams did a terrific job. The stat sheet isn't going to jump out at you, but I thought he was really good defensively. They usually shoot it better than that, but I'd like to think we had something to do with that."
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