Kenny Payne had a new look.
The Louisville basketball Coach took the court Wednesday night at Boston College in a black jacket checkered with red lines, representing the Cardinals’ colors in a more formal fashion than his standard pullover.
His assistants Abandoned the casual look, too, all Sporting jackets.
For much of the night, Payne’s team looked dramatically different too.
The Cards fought hard. They lost a lead and battled back from a deficit. They showed signs of the grit Payne has lamented them lacking.
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Ultimately, though, Louisville’s 75-65 loss at Boston College came down to issues so uniform this season you can probably list them.
And you’d probably start with turnovers.
Louisville (2-18, 0-9 ACC) committed 19 of them. Boston College (10-11, 4-6) turned them into 18 points.
You’d probably include a critical run the Cards couldn’t quite overcome. BC’s came Midway through the second half, an 18-5 stretch that included a Jaeden Zackery 3-pointer with 5:56 to play that put the Eagles in front to stay.
You might throw in solid individual performances — 17 points from El Ellis, 16 from Jae’Lyn Withers, 15 from Mike James — that weren’t quite enough for the Cards.
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It was all so familiar.
But it didn’t start that way.
James and Ellis got Louisville off to a fast start, combining to score the Cards’ first 15 points. They helped spark an early stretch in which Louisville shook off an 0-for-4 shooting start to make nine of the next 10.
U of L led by as many as 12 points in the first half, and the Cards shot 60% from the floor in the first 20 minutes, making 5 of 9 3-pointers.
Payne said in a Halftime interview with ACC Network that Louisville “did a good job of spacing the floor” and “attacking the lane” to get good shots.
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But again the Cards’ “Achilles heel,” Payne said, was turnovers. Louisville had nine of them before halftime.
Other than that, though, Payne’s look — and Louisville’s scorching early offense — made it seem like this one might be different. And those weren’t the only atypical signs. There were those famous fans in the stands at Conte Forum.
New York Knicks Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett were in attendance supporting Payne, a former Assistant with the Knicks and at Kentucky when both Randle and Quickley played there. New York will play the Celtics in Boston on Thursday.
The visiting Knicks saw perhaps the Cards’ best performance of the season in the first half.
The second half went sour. And with the game, the Cardinals’ ninth straight loss, Louisville lost a shot — strange as it sounds — to build potential momentum. The Boston College game was Louisville’s first in a string of four straight against teams that, like U of L, are among the bottom six in the ACC.
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The Cards’ next three opponents — Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Florida State — entered Wednesday with a combined record of 24-38, 7-23 in the ACC and their average rating at college basketball analytics site KenPom.com was 154. Louisville was ranked 295th at KenPom.
Payne conceded this week the Cards’ schedule was set to take a favorable turn.
“But I think you also have to consider when I watched those teams play the upper Echelon at this conference, what did I see?” Payne said Tuesday. “I saw there were tough games. So they’re not slouches. They’re not (lacking) talent. They’re good teams and they can beat anybody.”
For a half, Louisville looked good enough to beat somebody. That was new. The end was the same old stuff.
This story will be updated.
Reach Louisville men’s basketball Reporter Brett Dawson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.