Louisville 100, Northwestern St. 87
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s preseason claim that his freshmen class could be one of the best he’s ever had smacked of hype. The coach’s boast may prove to be true.
Freshman Jerry Smith scored 24 points—the most ever by a Cardinal in his collegiate debut—as Louisville overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Northwestern State 100-87 on Saturday.
Smith and fellow freshman Edgar Sosa, combined for more than a third of the Cardinals’ scoring. Sosa had 12.
They still looked like freshmen at times, though.
Sosa started for the Cardinals. But when he made a bad pass about three and a half minutes into the game, Andre McGee was at the scorer’s table to check in for Sosa almost the instant the ref’s whistle blew.
“Young teams can do sometimes what Jerry did,” Pitino said, “shoot the ball great and make plays but young teams are not great defensive teams. We’ve got to rely on keeping the ball in front of us and we struggled all night to do that.”
Smith hit three 3-pointers and sank all nine of his free throws.
“I wanted to attack and try and create for others and it opened things up for me, too,” Smith said.
Terrence Williams and Andre McGee each scored 16 points for the Cardinals (1-0).
The Demons (1-2) looked like they would give the Cardinals their first loss in a home opener since 2000 when they lost to Georgetown. Northwestern State went on an 8-0 run in the closing minutes of the first half to take a 50-39 halftime lead.
Colby Bargeman scored 19 of Northwestern State’s first half points, and finished with 25, a career-high.
“(Pitino) was hot,” Smith said of his coach at halftime.
Pitino’s message appeared to get through to his players. Louisville chipped away at Northwestern’s lead in the second half, using a full-court press to push the tempo.
With about 15 minutes to play the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run. A pair of free throws by Will Scott, a short jumper by Williams and a 3-pointer by McGee made the score 58-56.
“We had a lot of things to adjust,” Smith said. “We wanted to come out and play with fire in our stomachs and we did that in the second half.”
The Cardinals took the lead for good at 73-72 after an Edgar Sosa 3-pointer with 8:36 left to play. It was the first time the Cardinals had led since midway through the first half.
“We just kinda ran out of gas there at the end,” Northwestern coach Mike McConathy said.
The Cardinals started slowly, trading leads with the Demons, before taking a 12-10 lead with about 14 minutes to play in the first half.
Northwestern took the lead back after a 3-pointer by Bargeman with 8:33 to play in the first half.
Center David Padgett led Louisville with seven rebounds. Padgett and senior guard Brandon Jenkins are still playing at less than 100 percent, Pitino said. Both are recovering from leg injuries.
Northwestern’s Trey Gilder and Luke Rogers had 18 points each, and Gilder grabbed eight rebounds.
The Cardinals were without 6-foot-9 freshman Derrick Caracter, who is serving a three game suspension by the NCAA.
The Cardinals’ 100 points were the most by them in an opening game since 1991.