For the first time in the Kenny Payne era, the Louisville Cardinals toppled an 8-1 Western Kentucky team by 11 points. 94 points is by far the most points scored by the Cardinals this season, which they can credit to their fluid offense and ability to make shots.
Making the most shots for Louisville is senior guard El Ellis who became the first collegiate basketball player this season to record at least 30 points and 10 assists.
The stellar performance for the Cardinals came at a much needed time as their record stood at 0-9 and the majority of the fanbase was growing weary. However, there have been many fans and former Louisville players who have come to coach Kenny Payne’s defense. Most notably Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Phoenix Suns guard Damion Lee were testifying on Payne’s behalf arguing for patience from the fanbase due to the unique set of circumstances that he took the job under.
Head Coach Kenny Payne is known for his recruiting prowess, coaching under John Calipari, and most notably being a former Louisville alumni. So he just needed time to establish his culture, for his players to buy in, and the tide would start to turn.
It appears as if that is exactly what it happening here as the Cardinals played their best game of the season and just prior to the game, guard El Ellis told the media to “just stick with us.” Which was encouraging to hear because it indicated the players had not become apathetic to the game and fully supported the coaching staff.
The air leading into this game felt very different with the former players singing Kenny Payne’s praises online, the current players buying into the system, and as a result the team came away with their best offensive showing this season. Louisville had five players score in double digits for the first time all season.
Ellis led the way with 30 points, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield netted 11 points, Sydney Curry and Jae’Lyn Withers each had 10 points, and finally Kamari Lands scored 15 points. The three-point shots that the Cardinals have been shooting all season finally started to fall against the Hilltoppers and it impacted the scoreboard greatly.
Also, the assist-to-turnover ratio was in a positive margin this game, which is a statistic that Louisville has struggled with all season. Primarily because they were having difficulty taking care of the basketball. But, against WKU the assist-to-turnover ratio was 17-13 and a large part of that was contributed by Ellis’s 10 assists.
Next, up for the Cardinals is Florida A&M tomorrow at 2:00 PM EST, which has been the game all season that the fanbase has circled because statistically Florida A&M has been one of, if not the only team to perform worse than the Cardinals this season.
But now Louisville’s morale is up and they are heading into the game against the Rattlers with momentum, so the potential for Louisville to extend their winning streak to two is sky high right now.