No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — With his team leading Omaha by 15 points at halftime Friday night, Louisville interim coach David Padgett warned the 18th-ranked Cardinals that they better not relax in the second half or the high-scoring Mavericks would catch them.
Louisville didn’t fully heed the coach’s words in seeing a 20-point second-half lead slip to single digits. Thankfully, a career scoring night from Ray Spalding, another strong offensive game from Deng Adel and a whole bunch of blocked shots by the Cardinals proved enough for an 87-78 victory.
“We played 20 minutes of pretty darn good basketball, and we played 20 minutes of embarrassing basketball,” Padgett said. “We’ve got to find a way to play with a lead. . I was a little worried about urgency on both ends of the floor . but at the end of the day, we’re 2-0.”
Spalding had 19 points, including 14 after halftime, and 11 rebounds for Louisville, which led 40-25 at halftime and was up 71-52 with less than 8 minutes to go before a 12-0 Omaha run kept things interesting.
Adel scored 21 points while making 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line, and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots.
Louisville held on by making 19 of 22 at the foul line, but it failed to make a field goal over the last 4:36 of the game.
Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since joining NCAA Division I in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points.
“We could have easily given in and taken bad shots, but I really thought we grew as a basketball team,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “We made some shots down the stretch and at least made it semi-interesting.”
Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks.
“You can tell in flashes that we can be a really, really good team,” Mahmoud said. “It’s just about playing 40 minutes of a good performance to win the game. Early in the season, we can get away with 20 minutes to 30 minutes per game, but when it gets to ACC, it’s going to be way too tough.”
Mahmoud had the most blocks by a Louisville player since Kendall Dartez’s nine against Holy Cross 14 years ago. Spalding and freshman Malik Williams added three blocks each.
Omaha: The Mavericks, who averaged 83.9 points in their first three games, dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.
Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.
Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.
Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.
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