Louisville escaped the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis with a narrow 51-46 victory. The No. 2 Cardinals (4-0) handed Northern Iowa (3-1) their first loss of the season.
For the fourth straight game, UofL was led by junior guard Russ Smith’s scoring. Smith was the only UofL player in double figures with 16. It was Smith’s three -point play with 5.1 seconds left that decided the game as he was left open on and inbounds play and was fouled.
The Panthers trailed at half 26-20 and the Cardinals extended that lead with about 12 minutes left in the game to 40-22. Just when the game appeared to be in hand, the Panthers roared back and took advantage of Louisville mistakes and poor shooting. With 2:06 left, NIU was within one at 45-44. Louisville didn’t allow another field goal after that with their pressure defense.
Overall, UofL forced 23 turnovers, but committed 20 of their own. Smith had 6 of those for the Cardinals, but also had a team high 5 assists. Louisville’s rebounding dominance and extra possessions is what decided the game. The Cards out-grabbed the Panthers 40-26 which included 16 offensive rebounds. Gorqui Dieng led all rebounders with 9 and also pitched in 6 points.
The converted ballroom with 3,126 fans in attendance appeared to impact shooting on both sides. Louisville shot just 30.6 percent (19-62) and NIU ended with 34.8 percent (16-46). Luke Hancock finally connected on a 3-point attempt and was 2-7 shooting with 6 points. Chane Behanan was just 1-8 shooting with 4 points, but snagged 8 rebounds (5 offensive). Freshman Montrezl Harrell filled that stat box in just 13 minutes of play. Harrell was 2-3 shooting with 4 points and collected 8 rebounds.
The facility had a low ceiling covered with lights which lit up the court. The remainder of the ballroom was extremely dark and had black-lights to give some type of mysterious ambiance. The shooting in the other games at the Nassau, Bahamas facility was above par. Both No. 5 Duke and No. 19 Memphis shot better than 50 percent, however Memphis lost to Virginia Commonwealth 78-65 while Duke beat Minnesota 89-71. In other action, No. 13 Missouri slid past Stanford 78-70 which will put them up against Louisville Friday at 9:30 p.m. in the second round.
Missouri (4-0) has a familiar face in Alex Oriakhi who transferred from Connecticut last season. Oriakhi is averaging 12.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.