NASSAU, Bahamas - Just 36 hours removed from delivering a beatdown to Mississippi State in their Bahamas opener, the Louisville men's basketball program followed that up with another gritty performance, taking down Maryland 63-55 to clinch the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship.
With the win, the Cardinals (5-1, 0-0 ACC) capture their 31st regular season tournament championship. Their last title came in 2019 when they won the Global Sports Shootout, going 5-0 in the five-team, round-robin event.
The game also served as the final time in which assistant coach Mike Pegues will serve as acting head coach. Chris Mack will make his return to the sideline as head coach in Louisville's next game at Michigan State, after being suspended for the first six games of the season.
Despite not shooting particularly well, going 35.0 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent on three point attempts, their toughness on the defensive end and on the glass set the tone. Louisville destroyed the rebounding battle, winning 51-25 including 17-2 on the offensive glass, while holding the Terrapins (5-2, 0-0 Big Ten) to 38.5 percent from the floor.
Forward/center Malik Williams looked like his old self, leading Louisville in both scoring and rebounding for a 13 point/12 rebound double-double. Guard Noah Locke also had a double digit scoring effort with 12, and forward Jae'Lyn Withers has 11 boards of his own.
Opening up the game, Louisville couldn't have looked much sloppier on the offensive end of the floor. In the first 12 minutes, the Cardinals shot just 4-19 from the floor and committed 8 turnovers, thanks in part to horrible spacing and shot selection.
But, like in their Bahamas opener against the Mississippi State, defense and rebounding kept them in the game. In the first half, Louisville out-rebounded Maryland 29-12 - including a 12-1 advantage on offensive boards - while holding them to just 9-25 from the field.
The Cardinals were able to find a bit of an offensive rhythm to close the half, shooting 7-14 and committing just two turnovers in the final eight minutes, allowing them to head into the locker room with a 32-27 lead.
Coming out of halftime, it seemed like the Louisville momentum would keep on trucking, but it all came to a screeching half. The Cardinals opened up the half shooting just 4-19, and were even held scoreless for a six and a half minute segment.
The Terps had a 13-0 run during this stretch to re-take the lead, but the Cards eventually were able to come back to life. In the final seven minutes of the game, down by five, Louisville out-scored Maryland 21-8, thanks primarily to Williams, Jarrod West and Matt Cross.
Next up, Louisville will play in their first true road game of the season, traveling to East Lansing to face Michigan State as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Tip-off against the Spartans is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 7:15 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Roosevelt Wheeler: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)
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