LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Negative 18. Jordan Nwora played all but six minutes of Louisville’s 78-70 overtime loss at Kentucky last Saturday, and in the 39 minutes he was on the court, Kentucky outscored Louisville by 18. In the six minutes he was on the bench, the Cardinals outscored the Wildcats by 10.
The plus-minus stat is a dubious measure. Just because a team is outscored while this player or that is on the court doesn’t mean it was that player’s fault, per se. But in looking back at the game, Louisville coach Chris Mack left no doubt – he felt his preseason All-American failed to “make plays that affect winning.”
How Nwora bounces back from his 8-point, 2-for-10 shooting performance at Rupp Arena will play a large role in how the Cardinals fare with ACC play firing up in earnest at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon when No. 18 Florida State visits the KFC Yum! Center.
Nwora struggled against the long, athletic defenders that Kentucky threw at him, and he’ll face more of the same in the Seminoles, who come to Louisville with a top 20 defense and fourth in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing turnovers on more than a quarter of opponent possessions.
“I think Jordan settled,” Mack said of his leading scorer’s game at Kentucky. “I think he’s got to figure out ways to affect the game other than scoring, you know, when his shot isn’t falling. He missed some easy ones that he normally makes, and I think he pressed. But when his shot isn’t falling, and things aren’t going his way on the offensive end, I think great players find ways to affect the game and affect winning, and unfortunately he didn’t do that last Saturday.”
Ken Pomeroy ranks Nwora second in the nation in overall efficiency, which means he has done far more than just score this season. He’s improved defensively, and has been one of the team’s more reliable defensive rebounders.
But he struggled in both areas against a talented Kentucky team, and it’s a concern because Louisville will face difficult competition moving forward.
Mack’s message to Nwora this week is that Louisville came close to beating Kentucky without his scoring – but his team needed him to perform in other areas to make that happen.
“It’s something that we’ve been coaching Jordan on ever since I got here,” Mack said. “If he could do it already, he wouldn’t need a coach. Everybody on our team has strengths and weakness, and Jordan sometimes defines himself, or lets his scoring affect who he is in other areas. He’s grown so much in other areas that we need him to affect the game in other areas. We need him to make winning plays, not just being on a team that wins, but make plays that affect winning.”
It’s perhaps the final step toward Nwora becoming the player he has been billed to be. It’s one thing to be a great scorer. It’s another to sense what your team needs and deliver it. Mack said he thinks Nwora’s difficult outing at Kentucky has driven that home to the player.
“I think he’s taken a large step forward this week in practice,” Mack said. “When you have a game like he did, you probably get served a large bit of humility, and that’s always a good thing if you learn from it. But he’s a high character kid. He’s a terrific scorer and a great player and I’m confident he’s going to become a better player because of the experience he had last Saturday.”
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.