Jordan Nwora Leads No. 1 Louisville Past No. 4 Michigan in ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - DECEMBER 03:   Chris Mack the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team against the Michigan Wolverines at KFC YUM! Center on December 03, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Louisville Cardinals have a marquee victory to go with their No. 1 ranking.

Louisville defeated the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines 58-43 on Tuesday at the KFC Yum! Center, improving to 8-0 on the campaign. The only knock on the Cardinals was the fact they had just one win over a power-conference opponent (Miami) to this point, but Jordan Nwora led the way in changing that in dramatic fashion.

He also helped his conference earn a high-profile win in the 2019 Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

As for the Wolverines, they have already built a notable resume at 7-1 with impressive victories over Creighton, Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga.

          

Notable Player Stats

  • LOU F Jordan Nwora: 22 points and 12 rebounds
  • LOU C Steven Enoch: 13 points and 10 rebounds
  • MIC C Jon Teske: 18 points and 10 rebounds

          

Michigan's Early-Season Express Derails Against Louisville's Defense

The Wolverines have already built a resume worthy of early No. 1 seed discussion with a Battle 4 Atlantis championship that included wins over Iowa State, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 9 Gonzaga, and Juwan Howard's program appears ahead of schedule in his first season as head coach.

They went from unranked to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, which matched the largest jump in the 70-year history of the rankings, per Cassandra Negley of Yahoo Sports.

However, Michigan could be forgiven if fatigue started to set in entering its third game against a top-10 foe in six days. That it was against the swarming defense of Louisville didn't make life any easier for the Big Ten squad.

The Cardinals contested nearly every shot, clogged traffic in the lane and sent additional defenders at big man Jon Teske when needed. The Wolverines managed a mere 18 points in the first half and consistently stalled without any open looks.

While Howard's team pulled within single digits with a quick run to start the second half, it struggled to sustain any meaningful momentum. It shot an ugly 25.9 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from deep, and a combined seven turnovers from guards Zavier Simpson and Franz Wagner proved costly to any comeback hopes.

The Wolverines will need to be better on the offensive end during conference play, but they also won't face many situations in which they play the daunting defense of a No. 1 team a couple of days after traveling from back-to-back contests against top-10 foes in the Bahamas.

            

Jordan Nwora Provides Enough Offense For Marquee Win

The headline matchup entering play was the one between Louisville's offense and Michigan's defense.

According to Ken Pomeroy's pace-adjusted rankings, the Cardinals boast the No. 2 offense compared to the Wolverines' No. 12 defense. Michigan also held North Carolina and Gonzaga to just 64 points apiece in impressive showings and had plenty of confidence on that end of the floor.

Nwora was the ideal candidate to break that defense as a matchup problem who can light it up from downtown and attack the lane, but Louisville didn't even manage to reach the 64-point mark.

Fortunately for the home team, there wasn't much pressure on its offense given how well it played on defense. Nwora didn't need to explode for 30-plus points and was instead fine picking and choosing his spots in a low-scoring affair.

He did just enough of that, including an and-1 and another jumper on back-to-back possessions to go up 14 with under three minutes remaining. He consistently had the ball in his hands down the stretch and nearly single-handedly kept the Wolverines at bay with critical baskets whenever they cut into the lead.

If Louisville's defense plays like it did Tuesday, that will be enough for most of the season.

          

What's Next?

Both teams host conference opponents Friday. Michigan plays the Iowa Hawkeyes, while Louisville faces the Pittsburgh Panthers.

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