LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Not only was the University of Louisville basketball team coming off an 8-day layoff since its 13-point loss to Kentucky, but it had played only once in 15 days heading into Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Miami.
It was the least-active two-week stretch in 29 years for U of L basketball, in terms of games played, and the Cardinals looked like it for stretches of the first half, when they fell behind by 15 points.
But the Cardinals stabilized, sharpened their shooting, and roared back to beat Miami 90-73 before a crowd of 15,050 at the KFC Yum! Center.
"We didn't start off very well," Louisville coach Chris Mack said. "A little bit of it had to do with us as a coaching staff deciding to switch every ball screen. . . . It wasn't very good early. It was much better late."
Miami scored early and often off drives to the basket when Louisville big men were caught on smaller players. But as the game went on, the bigs adjusted, and Miami had more difficulty on offense.
Credit Louisville for staying poised, and for correcting its mistakes. Though there were some heated moments in timeout huddles when Miami's lead swelled.
"It was intense," guard Ryan McMahon said. "Because we weren't doing what we needed to do to win. We thought they were just going to lay down. We weren't playing hard. We weren't talking. We had a bunch of defensive mishaps. The coaches were getting on us to wake us up, and they should have. We weren't playing hard enough. So the huddle was intense. But it woke us up and after the first 10-12 minutes, we were ready to play."
Louisville had to claw back from poor perimeter shooting early. The Cards missed their first seven three-point tries, but made a few threes late in the half and managed some stops to pull within 41-40 at the break.
Jordan Nwora kept Louisville close with 19 first-half points for the Cardinals.
"He's really good," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "He takes twice as many shots as any guy on their team and he's averaging like 19 a game. He had 18 at halftime. So we had to do something about that. He ended up with 20, so, in a sense, it worked, except everybody else then chipped in and had a great second half."
Trailing 48-47 with 16:06 to play, Louisville outscored Miami 20-8 over the next 8 minutes, making 8 of 14 shots -- 5 of 9 of those from three-point range -- to lead 68-55 with 8 1/2 minutes left.
Point guard Christen Cunningham was the catalyst for the run, hitting back-to-back threes with just more than 14 minutes left to turn a 50-47 deficit to a 53-50 lead.
That seemed to take the lid off a bit for the Cardinals. Ryan McMahon hit a pair of threes and Malik Williams started to heat up.
Perhaps "heat up" isn't putting it strongly enough. He scored scoring twice in the post then drilled a corner three to put the Cards up 75-61 with 5:30 left. He would hit jumpers on each of the next two possessions to keep the Cardinal lead at 14.
"That was Malik Williams best game of the year," Mack said. ". . . It was good to see him break out."
Nwora led the Cardinals with 20 points. Williams added 19 points and 11 rebounds and Cunningham had 11 points and five assists.
Louisville shot 50 percent from three-point range (8-16) in the second half and made 13 of 31 threes in the game. Overall, they shot 47.8 percent from the field.
The Cards won their conference opener for the sixth time in seven years. They'll be back in action Wednesday night at Pittsburgh.
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