Steven Enoch had 15 points including several key free throws down the stretch, Darius Perry added 14 points and Louisville held off Nicholls State 85-72 on Thursday night to win Chris Mack’s debut as Cardinals coach.
The Cardinals (1-0) had to work to put away the stubborn Colonels (1-1), whose 3-point shooting got them within 68-66 with 4:16 remaining. V.J. King (12 points) made a free throw, Perry added a layup and Enoch made two more from the line to make it 73-66.
Foul troubles eliminated several Nicholls players, and King, Christen Cunningham and Perry each took advantage to make a pair of free throws for a little more room. Louisville went on to seal a successful if tense first game for Mack, who took over Louisville in March after successful nine-year tenure at Xavier.
Enoch, a Connecticut transfer, made all nine free throws as Louisville hit 42 of 55 from the line. Jordan Nwora added 12 points off the bench for the Cardinals, who began a new chapter under Mack after being implicated last fall in a federal corruption investigation of college basketball and a 2015 sex scandal.
Louisville shot 19 of 40 and controlled the boards 39-30 against Nicholls, which had five players foul out.
Jeremiah Jefferson made 7 of 12 3-pointers for 24 points to lead Nicholls (1-1), which hit 12 of 32 from long range. Gavin Peppers added 14 points for the Colonels, who shot 38 percent.
Nicholls: The Colonels made things interesting at times and stayed within striking distance behind 3-point shooting. They needed that perimeter accuracy to offset a size disadvantage, especially when Ryghe Lyons and Elvis Harvey went to the bench with four fouls each early in the second half. Harvey (two points, four rebounds) fouled out with 10:37 left, and Lyons followed less than three minutes later.
Louisville: The Cardinals will remain a work in progress under Mack but showed spark in their coach’s debut. They shot decently most of the night while their defense succeeded in denying Nicholls the inside. Nwora provided the initial energy off the bench with nine first half points and Ryan McMahon contributed a couple of 3-pointers that helped Louisville build momentum.
Nicholls State visits Washington State on Sunday in the second of four games this month against Power 5 conference schools. The docket includes Baylor (Big 12) and Mississippi (Southeastern).
Louisville: Hosts Southern Tuesday night in the second of a three-game opening home stand.