LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears were ice cold against a team they could not afford to be Wednesday night and it resulted in a 86-41 loss to the Louisville Cardinals in front of a crowd off 14,920 at the KFC YUM! Center.
The Bears were frigid in the first half, hitting just 8 of 35 from the field (22.9 percent) and just 3 of 13 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range.
The shooting never heated up either as UCA finished the game at 25 percent overall (16 of 64) and 20.8 percent from 3-point range (5 of 24).
For the first time this season, UCA had no players with double-figure scoring while Louisville (6-2) had three, led by junior forward Jordan Nwora with 21, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range.
Junior center Steven Enoch (6-foot-10, 260) added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinals, who have won three in a row, including an upset of No. 8 Michigan State.
"Tonight wasn't about strategy,” UCA coach Russ Pennell said. "I think we had some really good looks and the ball didn't go in the basket like we want. I thought the shot selection in the second half was better. I thought early on we kind of took some quick ones. almost like you don't want to fight the resistance of their defense so you just up and shoot it. But they are good defensively. They are really good defensively.
"I just didn't think we had the look and the fight it takes to win, or even compete, in these type of games. I think that disappoints me as much as anything. The ball may not go in the basket but there's more to it than just shooting the basketball.
"No. 1, I didn't have them ready. And part of that is just lack of energy a little bit on my part. Some times you have to have some abrasiveness, even in practice. As my dad says, you have to be a little bit unfair sometimes. And I believe that. And yesterday the practice was not crisp, it wasn't great. And I was hoping that our leadership would kind of take over but we're going to all shoulder the blame for this one, and it starts right here with me.”
While the shots were not falling for the Bears, the fouls were definitely accumulating. Both of UCA's centers, sophomore Hayden Koval and redshirt freshman SK Shittu, picked up three fouls in the opening half, then got their fourth fouls in the opening four minutes of the second half.
Koval eventually fouled out with 10:15 remaining with five points and five rebounds in a season-low 13 minutes of action.
Shittu finished the game with four fouls and had eight points and eight rebounds but was just 3 of 12 from the field.
Enoch scored Louisville's first 10 points — and also pinned two quick fouls on Koval — as the Cardinals jumped out to a 10-2 lead.
A 6-0 run by the Bears got them back within 20-11 at the 11:00 mark but the Cardinals responded with a 13-0 spurt and put the game out of reach.
The free throw difference was another factor as the Bears made 4 of 7 at the line and the Cardinals connected on 15 of 22.
Louisville, from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), entered the game having made 29 more free throws (174) than its opponents had attempted (106).
UCA (3-5) played without second-leading scorer, freshman Eddy Kayouloud, who missed the game for a violation of team rules, and also lost junior Aaron Weidenaar to a recurring ankle injury twice in the second half, in addition to Koval fouling out.
The 41 points was UCA's lowest output since a 43-point effort against Wisconsin on Nov. 11, 2016, which was also the last time the Bears shot less than 30 percent from the field.
"You flush these,” Pennell said. "You're going to have one or two of these. You don't like them, especially when you're talking about a team of Louisville's caliber, a very good team. And if you're not quite up to par and they are, they can make you look bad. We'll learn a few things.”
The Bears have a travel day on Thursday and then one day to get ready for Saturday's rematch with Little Rock at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
UCA won the first matchup 78-65 a week ago at the Farris Center in the "Governor's I-40 Challenge."