Louisville used a huge advantage at the foul line to hold off Nicholls State Thursday night and earn an 85-72 win in its season opener at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
Four players scored in double figures for the Cardinals (1-0), earning Chris Mack a win in his debut as the program’s new coach. Steven Enoch finished with 15 points, while Darius Perry added 14, and Jordan Nwora and V.J. King each had 12.
Louisville finished 42-of-55 from the line with King leading the way with a 10-for-12 performance. Nicholls State (1-1) only went to the line 16 times, converting 12 free throws.
Louisville took just 40 shots from the field, but was able to pound the ball inside against the smaller Colonels.
However, the Colonels stayed in contention all night because they were able to hit 3-pointers. Nicholls State connected on 12-of-31 from the arc, including seven by Jeremiah Jefferson, who scored a game-high 24 points. Gavin Peppers added 14 points and Kevin Johnson added 11.
Jefferson and Peppers canned consecutive 3-pointers to draw the Colonels within 68-66 with 3:31 left in the game. Louisville answered with nine straight points, finally allowing its fans to breathe easy. Perry converted a driving layup for a 71-66 edge at the 2:41 mark and Christen Cunningham’s two foul shots with 1:12 remaining upped the lead to an insurmountable 77-66.
Neither team found any kind of offensive rhythm in the game’s first 10 minutes, although Nicholls State was able to establish an 11-7 advantage when Danny Garrick finished a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer at the 12:39 mark.
The Cardinals answered with 11 consecutive points, holding the Colonels scoreless for a span of 5:33 and opening up a 23-13 lead after Ryan McMahon drilled a 3-pointer with 6:04 left in the half.
Two free throws by Nwora with 2:10 remaining increased the margin to 33-21, and Louisville went into the locker room ahead 35-25 at the half.
—Field Level Media