After a disappointing yet encouraging performance in the NIT Season Tip-off in Brooklyn last week, the Cards didn’t have any time to rest as they faced their second top ten opponent in less than a week, #9 Michigan State, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It was their second overtime game in a row, but this contest had a much better outcome for the Cards as they upset the Spartans 82-78.
Michigan State has had a highly successful early season, their only loss being to current #1 Kansas at the beginning of the year.
Louisville got out to an early 5-0 lead, but the Spartans were able to battle back and regain the advantage a few minutes later.
But Michigan State has trouble making baskets for the majority of the first half, while the Cards had no such problems. They went up by as much as 12 points at some points in the first 20 minutes and responded to any offense Michigan State tried to put together. Louisville was also able to take advantage of 11 first half turnovers from the Spartans, which the Cards scored 13 points off of.
However the Spartans seemed to find their shooting touch in the closing minutes of the first half, eroding the deficit. But the Cards were still able to stay ahead 38-32 at halftime.
Louisville was able to increase the lead back to double-digits early in the second half. The lead was short-lived however, as the Spartans took advantage of the Cards’ big men being in foul trouble to score inside and out-rebound Louisville, whittling down the lead to one midway with just under nine minutes left to go.
The Cards kept staying just a half-step ahead of Michigan State for most of the rest of the game, before the Spartans finally regained the lead with under three minutes to go.
The two squads traded leads for the rest of the game, including the final minute, before Louisville was able to tie it up on a Christen Cunningham free throw.
After a Cardinals foul, the Spartans missed the free throw but Louisville was unable to score as the clock wound down and went into overtime tied at 67.
It was much the same in overtime, with leads being traded throughout. Louisville went up by four points with 14 seconds left to go, but Michigan State responded with a three-pointer to close within one.
As the Spartans started fouling, the Cards made their clutch free throws to seal the victory.
Ryan McMahon led all scorers with a career-high 24 points, including four three-pointers and 12 free throws.
Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora and Christen Cunningham also scored in double figures.
Nwora was the leading rebounder, with one board shy of a double-double with nine rebounds.
Louisville was able to continue to exploit Michigan State turnovers, scoring 18 points off turnovers for the game.
Despite the thrilling victory, Louisville does have some things to improve on.
They were dominated on the boards offensively and defensively, being out-rebounded 47-30.
One of the reasons for this was the continued struggles of Cardinal big men such as Steven Enoch and Akoy Agau, who have had reduced offensive production and increased fouls in the last few games.
But it was still a win against a top team from a Louisville squad that was not even a tournament team last year, and appears to be improving by leaps and bounds each game.
Louisville moves to 4-2 on the season. Michigan State now has a 5-2 record.
The Cards will look to keep the momentum going as play their first true road game against Seton Hall on December 1.<