Spalding's double-double leads Louisville past Grand Canyon
By STEVE BITTENBENDER
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Even after Ray Spalding hit the game-winning shot in Louisville's last game, he knew he could do better. On Saturday, he showed just what that could mean.
The junior Louisville native notched career highs with 21 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Cardinals to a 74-56 victory over Grand Canyon.
The Cardinals (10-2) used a 21-3 run over an eight-minute stretch in the second half to turn what was a 38-37 lead into a 19-point advantage with 8:28 remaining. Spalding, whose previous bests were 19 points and 14 rebounds, scored six of the first nine points to start the run.
Spalding was limited by foul trouble in the Cardinals 70-68 victory over Albany Wednesday. That limited him to just 16 minutes, which matched a season low. He said it also motivated him for the Antelopes.
"The way I adjusted today was really well," he said. "I handled myself better than (Albany) with the stupid fouls."
Louisville interim coach David Padgett said Spalding's aggressiveness inside on both ends of the court spurred the 6-10 forward's big game. Spalding made 8 of 13 shots, pulled down 10 rebounds on the defensive end and added three blocks and two steals.
"He basically took it upon himself to cure our woes at least for this game," Padgett said, referring to the defensive rebounds.
The Antelopes (9-4) never drew closer than 11 after Louisville's big run.
That run wasn't the first time the Cardinals defense held the Antelopes at bay.
Louisville fell behind by as much as 11-3 early, but they used a 13-4 run to get back into the game midway through the first half. The Cardinals then held the Antelopes to just three baskets in the final 7:32 to take a 31-25 lead into halftime.
The Antelopes, who committed 19 turnovers, were led by Oscar Frayer's 14 points.
"I thought we had too many careless turnovers early," Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle said. "We hung in there and tried to battle, but we just didn't have it tonight."
Deng Adel added 14 for Louisville.
Grand Canyon: The Antelopes came into Saturday as one of the country's top teams defending the 3-point shot, and while they held Louisville to just 4 of 19 from beyond the arc, they were dominated in the paint. Louisville outrebounded the Antelopes 41-35 and outscored them 34-24 inside.
Louisville: The Cardinals entered the game with a defensive rebounding efficiency of just 70.3 percent, which ranked 257th in the nation. They allowed the Antelopes to grab 12 offensive boards in 39 chances, but Louisville held them to just seven second chance points. While it did not hurt them Saturday, it could loom large down the road when Louisville plays teams that can match its athleticism.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Padgett said in preparing for the Antelopes, he told his players to keep their focus on the game at hand. That meant not even thinking about going home for the holidays.
That also included the team's upcoming game with archrival Kentucky. Padgett said he hasn't breathed one word to his team about the Wildcats nor has he watched but just a couple minutes of the in-state rival this season.
"We don't look ahead at all, especially this season," said Padgett, alluding to the preseason issues that led to the dismissal of coach Rick Pitino. "We've taken it day by day."
One bright spot for the Antelopes was freshman forward Alessandro Lever. The 6-10 Italian matched his season high with 12 points and dished out a season best four assists. He also made both 3-point shots.
"I'm excited about him," Majerle said about his stretch post player. "He's continued to get better and better."
Grand Canyon: The Antelopes will play Morgan State at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday. It's the same site where Grand Canyon will play in its first WAC conference tournament in March.
Louisville: The Cardinals travel to Lexington for their annual matchup with archrival Kentucky on Friday afternoon in their final non-conference tilt before starting ACC play.
Updated December 23, 2017