Louisville led the whole way as the top ranked Cardinals pulled away from Pittsburgh late in a 64-46 victory Friday night in the ACC home opener.
Jordan Nwora led the Cards with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Malik Williams came off the bench for 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan McMahon added 11 points on 3 of 6 from three.
Pittsburgh guard Xavier Johnson led the Panthers with 15 points, rebounds and 2 assists. Au’Diese Toney had 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Pitt shot 38 percent from the field and only 3 of 12 from deep in its lowest scoring performance of the season.
It was a balanced first half from Louisville, who led 35-21 at the break. Eight Cardinals hit a three pointer in the first 20 minutes, and the Cards were 9-13 from long range as a team in that stretch. They closed the half on an 8-0 run to extend the lead to 14 at the break.
Pittsburgh came out hot after and got the Louisville lead down to 43-38 seven minutes into the half. Louisville held a 49-42 lead at the under-8 timeout and got the lead out to 60-42 before the next media timeout as part of a 13-0 run. The Cards led by as many as 20 and would finish off the Panthers to improve to 9-0 and 2-0 in the ACC. Pittsburgh is now 7-3 and 1-1 in conference play.
Louisville’s bench outscored Pittsburgh 21-5, largely in part to Malik Williams’ season-high 13 points. Williams only played 20 minutes on Friday, but proved his value as maybe the best option off of the bench right now. It’s only been five games since Malik came back from injury, but he looks much more physical down low. While he can still serve as an important floor spacer, he has only shot seven threes through five games after averaging over 2.5 three point attempts per game a season ago. He’s learning to play smarter and has not been as trigger happy while on the perimeter. There’s still nearly a quarter of the season to go, but with the defensive value he can already provide, it wouldn’t be surprising if Malik Williams is viewed as Louisville’s most improved player at the end of the season.
Louisville did not play its best game tonight, but this is now the second game in a row where its held a team to under 50 points. The defense is among the best in the nation and looks wildly improved from a year ago. You probably heard the term “finish” all throughout the preseason and now into the season. Louisville has made it clear on social media that this team’s motive is to finish its opponents. This is now four straight games where the Cards have held a relatively narrow lead at some point into the second half and finished the job. In three of those games like Friday’s, Louisville won by double digits. There will be tougher tests, but Louisville has looked like it is much more equipped to handle in game adversity compared to last season.
Up Next: Louisville heads to NYC for a Tuesday Night Matchup with Texas Tech as part of the Jimmy V Classic. The game tips at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.