No. 2 Louisville leads big before holding off Akron 82-76
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By GARY B. GRAVES
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Chris Mack hopes No. 2 Louisville learns from a huge scare against Akron.
Ryan McMahon made two free throws with 16.8 seconds left, helping No. 2 Louisville escape Akron 82-76 on Sunday night.
The Zips trailed 55-33 early in the second half before getting within 78-74 on the second of Loren Cristian Jackson's three consecutive layups. Darius Perry's two free throws with 23 seconds left provided a six-point lead before Jackson drove again to make it 80-76.
McMahon was fouled on the inbounds and promptly made the free throws. Akron took several 3-point shots in the final seconds before Jordan Nwora's defensive rebound as time expired sealed a victory more tense than expected.
"We talked about finishing, we talked about not letting up and winning the last war and we really didn't do any of those things," McMahon said.
Louisville's near-upset followed a torrid five-game start in which it shot above 50% each time and earned four consecutive routs. This time, the Cardinals shot just 42% and only 33% after halftime.
To Mack, that demonstrates how misleading a lofty ranking can be.
"We have not earned that yet, just as every team in the country in my opinion has not earned that yet," said the second-year Louisville coach, stressing that teams are still coming together.
"I hope that we're mature enough to not accept in victory what we certainly wouldn't accept in defeat. We have a long way to go."
Louisville (6-0) didn't make a field goal over the final 4:02, a drought that allowed Akron to overcome its own shooting woes. The Zips made just four of their final 12 attempts but strung them together with Cheese's 3-pointer and straight-line drives by their quick 5-foot-8 point guard.
Then came those final misses that typified Akron's rollercoaster shooting night in which it shot 40%.
"To play the number two team in the country and be down 22 and fight back like that and put yourself into position where it's a two possession game. ..." Akron coach John Groce said. "If we hit one of those 3s it goes to a one-possession game. We hit one of those, it gets real interesting.
"I'm proud if our guys for their fight."
Nwora scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, Steven Enoch added 17 and Dwayne Sutton and McMahon 10 each for the Cardinals (6-0). Sutton also had 10 of Louisville's 48 rebounds, 12 more than Akron.
Jackson and Tyler Cheese each had 20 for the Zips (4-2), who had won three in a row coming in. Channel Banks added 18 points.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Akron overcame an 18-8 gap in paint scoring at the break to top Louisville 32-30. The Zips also outscored the Cardinals 19-13 in points off turnovers and grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the second half.
Sutton's 14 rebounds marked his third game in four reaching double digits in the category.
Akron: The Zips' scoring totals had increased in each of the past three games before facing the Cardinals. They trailed much of the night but made it interesting, turning what appeared to be a rout into a tight game with timely baskets. With a couple more minutes, anything could have happened.
Louisville: The Cardinals did a lot to initially gain control with an inside presence on both ends. A series of missed shots and ragged play allowed Akron to get too close for comfort in the final minutes before Perry and McMahon saved them at the line.
Louisville had to work late to seal this victory, but it remains to be seen whether it retains their poll position.
Akron hosts Merrimack on Friday.
Louisville faces in-state rival Western Kentucky in Nashville on Friday.
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Updated November 24, 2019