LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When Jordan Nwora scored Louisville’s first 11 points on Tuesday, it appeared it might be a long night for the Lipscomb men’s basketball team.
But after making some defensive adjustments, the Bisons gave the Cardinals all they could handle in what was nearly a massive upset.
However, a Kenny Cooper turnover with 1:03 left was followed by a fadeaway jumper from Louisville’s Christen Cunningham, giving the Cardinals a narrow, 72-68 victory at the KFC Yum! Center.
Lipscomb guard Garrison Mathews led the Bisons with 20 points after producing a combined 10 in his last two outings against Belmont and Navy. The senior said he hopes the Louisville experience will help prepare the Bisons for March basketball.
“I think we can play with anybody,” Mathews said. “I don’t think we can beat everybody, but I think we can play with anybody and give everybody a game. It’s good experience for hopefully when we make the [NCAA] tournament.”
Lipscomb (7-3) shot just 35 percent (23-of-65) from the floor – well below its season average of 47 percent. But the Bisons went on an 8-0 run just before the break to cut Louisville’s halftime lead to 34-33.
“It wasn’t our best performance by any stretch,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “Louisville had a lot to do with that, obviously. We put ourselves in position where we had a chance late. That shows a lot of grit and fight, so I’m proud of our team for that.”
Lipscomb trailed by as many as 12 with 14:35 left to play, but a pair of threes from Mathews and baskets by Cooper and Rob Marberry knotted the contest at 52 with 9:25 left. From there, it was a fight to the finish.
“It was a great response,” Alexander said. “When [Louisville] extended a margin like that in the second half, it showed a lot of character from our guys [to tie the game].”
Mathews hit four consecutive free throws down the stretch to trim Louisville’s lead to one with 1:32 left. Louisville forward Malik Williams then split a 1-and-1 opportunity to give the Bisons a chance to tie or take the lead. But Cooper mishandled the ball at the top of the key to squander that chance.
“It was just ball handling,” Alexander said. “It wasn’t anything that [Louisville] did on that one. It was a bad catch. Sometimes those things happen, and it just happened at a really bad time.”
Louisville took advantage of Lipscomb’s 19 fouls by going 18-for-22 at the charity strip. Marberry, Ahsan Asadullah and Eli Pepper were all in foul trouble at different points in the second half, forcing Alexander to make changes to his lineup.
“[Louisville is] one of the best in the country at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line,” Alexander said. “They exposed us there and made us work with some unusual lineups. The worst part about foul trouble is that it keeps you from playing defense aggressively.”
Marberry finished with 11 points. Nwora led Louisville with 22, while Dwayne Sutton (14) and Williams (10) also had double-figure performances.
Lipscomb will return home on Monday to host Division-III Covenant. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Allen Arena.
Photos by Erin Franklin