Cardinals come back to defeat UMBC 94-93 in season opener

Louisville men’s basketball fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit Monday night, outlasting UMBC 94-93 in the season opener at the KFC Yum! Center.
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 6:21 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville men’s basketball fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit Monday night, outlasting UMBC 94-93 in the season opener at the KFC Yum! Center.

On the night the program paid tribute to the legendary head coach Denny Crum, who passed away in May, the Cardinals (1-0) scored 60 points in the paint and had five players in double figures scoring in the victory.

The one-point win comes after Louisville lost its opening three games last season by a single point each.

“We needed this win,” UofL head coach Kenny Payne said. “We needed it for the guys in that locker room so, for me to sit here and talk about strategy and this and that … they fought for a win and they got a win. It wasn’t pretty, but we executed. I think they said every possession in the second half except seven, we got the ball in the paint – that’s pretty impressive. That’s the way we want to play, we want to attack people and then we want to play unselfish.”

Redshirt sophomore guard/forward Mike James had a standout night with a career-high 25 points. He also made 13 of 14 free throws and pulled down 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his career.

The Cardinals controlled the glass with a 47-35 rebounding margin and a 28-10 edge on second-chance points. Louisville shot 50% for the game and 59% in the second half, and made 24 of 39 free throws.

“I just say it is playing hard,” James said. “I can’t pinpoint it on anything, just trying to get to get to the lane. Get some layups and playing hard. They were fouling a lot. So, we just kept driving them, and they are smaller defenders so we can take advantage of that. Just had to get up to the line and knock down my free throws.”

UofL led 31-29 with 6:45 left in the first half, but UMBC (0-1) used a 7-0 run to charge in front.

The Retrievers led 48-40 at the break, but the Cardinals surged out of the locker room with a 10-0 spurt to reclaim the lead.

UMBC’s lead swelled again to eight at 72-64 with 9:22 to play before a 6-0 Louisville run. After a 3 made it 86-83 UMBC with 3:16 remaining, the Cards rattled off eight straight points to make it a 91-86 advantage after two free throws by James.

Tied again at 92-all in the waning seconds, sophomore guard Tre White attacked the basket for a missed shot, got the offensive rebound and lobbed the ball to senior forward JJ Traynor for a thundering dunk with seven seconds to go.

“The first couple of games mattered the most for the rest of the season,” Traynor said. “To come in and to get a win, and for it be the way it was. We were missing some shots. To fight and pull it out is big for our team and gives us some confidence moving forward.”

Traynor finished with 13 points, while freshman guard Ty-Laur Johnson added 12 in his college debut. White and sophomore guard Skyy Clark had 11 points apiece.

Junior forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield pulled down 12 rebounds, and sophomore forward/center Emmanuel Okorafor chipped in eight points and six boards off the bench.

Dion Brown had 28 points to pace UMBC, which made 11 of 21 3-pointers.

The Cardinals remain home for their next matchup against Chattanooga at 7 p.m. ET Friday. The game will stream on ACC Network Extra.

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