NEW YORK — November 20, 2023 – Zach Greenwell
Louisville men’s basketball led in the final minute Sunday against No. 19/17 Texas, but a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer by Max Abmas lifted the Longhorns over the Cardinals, 81-80, in the first round of the 2023 Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden.
UofL sophomore guard Skyy Clark’s 3-pointer with 1:20 to go gave Louisville an 80-78 lead.
The Longhorns countered with one free throw, then were awarded a shot clock violation after a collision near mid-court. That gave them the ball with 7.9 seconds remaining to set up Abmas’ heroics.
“We did a good job of defending them for a lot of the game, but in the end, when you give offensive rebounds to teams like that, it’s going to eventually come back and get you,” UofL head coach Kenny Payne said. “Like I’ve said all along, I like my team. It was the first semblance we’ve had all year of the way we look in practice, and that’s the team I want to show up every night. We’re not perfect, we’ve got a long way to go, but we have the components to cause people problems.”
Louisville (2-2) had five players in double figures, led by 20 points apiece from Clark and sophomore guard Tre White. Clark also had five rebounds and four assists, and White pulled down seven boards.
Freshman guard Ty-Laur Johnson, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, provided 14 points and six assists off the bench while making 10 of 12 free throws in his homecoming.
Junior forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and senior forward JJ Traynor each had 11 points and combined for 15 rebounds.
Texas (4-0) led 16-7 early, but Louisville answered with a 7-0 run to cut it to two after two free throws by Johnson.
The Cardinals reclaimed the lead at 29-28 after a pair of free throws by Traynor, and Johnson tied it again at 35-all with 2:11 left with two more from the stripe.
Clark’s 3 with 47 seconds left cut Louisville’s deficit to one, but Texas scored the final basket of the half for a 41-38 advantage.
White scored the first five points of the second half to put the Cardinals back in front, setting up a back-and-forth battle that led to 21 lead changes and 14 ties.
Clark twice regained the lead for Louisville in the final two minutes with 3s before Texas answered.
“That’s obviously a really great team,” Clark said. “… They have a great coach, great guards and a few good big men. I think we showed a lot of people that we can compete with them, though.”
Kadin Shedrick had 27 points to pace the Longhorns, who entered the night shooting 42% from 3-point range but were held to just 2-for-17 from deep. They made up for it with 48 points in the paint and 17 offensive rebounds.
“We know what we have to do,” White said. “We harp on that. That’s one of our identities, we try to be a rebounding team. It’s a minor mistake that cost us, but we talked about it. We’re going to build on it from there.” Louisville will be back in action Monday against regional rival Indiana at 4:30 p.m. ET in the consolation game of the Empire Classic on ESPNU.