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.