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Cards, Ellis Top Western Kentucky 94-83 for First Win of Season

Louisville Athletics

El Ellis finished with career-high 30 points and 10 assists for first career double-double.

Video: Coach Kenny Payne Press Conference —

Video: Captains Jae’Lyn Withers, El Ellis and Sydney Curry Press Conference —

LOUISVILLE – December 14, 2022 Louisville men’s basketball rode a balanced team effort and a dominant showing from senior guard El Ellis to its first win of the season Wednesday, beating in-state foe Western Kentucky 94-83 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Ellis poured in a career-high 30 points to go along with a career-high 10 assists for his first career double-double. He’s the first Cardinal with 30 points and 10 assists in a game since Reece Gaines against TCU on March 6, 2002.

“It just felt so great to get that win,” Ellis said. “I told the guys this was going to be the game, and it was. I felt that in my soul. That crowd man, it was amazing. To see that crowd like that and to be into it the way they were. Seeing my teammates, everybody played well, I’m so proud of my guys.”

Ellis was one of five players in double figures for Louisville (1-9), which shot a season-high 54.4% from the field, knocked down a season-high 13 of 25 3-pointers and made 19 of 20 free throws.

Louisville’s 17 assists were also a season high, and its 94 points were its most since beating Eastern Kentucky 99-67 on Dec. 14, 2019.

The victory was also the first of Kenny Payne’s head coaching career.

“Love the way we played, loved the way we attacked, loved the way we finally played with toughness and energy and confidence,” Payne said. “I just told the guys this, ‘What does it smell like? What does it feel like? What does it taste like?’ Because winning one, imagine what it’s like to win 80 or 90 percent of your games. You’ve got to sacrifice your life to it. This hopefully is a stepping stone that they greatly needed, because they put in a lot of work. But we have to build on this game and continue the momentum going and get over the schneid. They deserve it, they worked really hard, harder than I can tell you. They’re good kids, it’s all about them.”

Western Kentucky led 18-10 early, but the Cardinals went on a 16-4 run to build a 30-24 advantage at the 6:06 mark after two free throws by senior forward Sydney Curry.

A 3-pointer by junior forward JJ Traynor made it a 46-35 lead for UofL going into halftime.

The Cardinals continued to pour it on from there, as a 7-0 run early in the second half punctuated by a fast-break dunk by redshirt junior forward Jae’Lyn Withers made it 55-37 and forced a WKU timeout.

Louisville led by as much as 20 at 63-43 after a 3 from freshman forward Kamari Lands at the 13:52 mark. Western Kentucky (8-2) trimmed down the deficit, but never got back within single digits again.

Lands scored a career-high 15 points off the bench for UofL, while sophomore forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield added 11. Curry and Withers each had 10 points and six rebounds.

“We had nice practices leading up to this, working hard in practice,” Curry said. “Practice leading up to this put us in a good spot to win the game and our energy in practices.”

Dayvion McKnight paced the Hilltoppers with 25 points.

The Cardinals will try to stack two wins together as they stay at home to host Florida A&M at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. The game will air on Regional Sports Networks.

“Sacrifices is one word that (Payne) still uses, even after the win,” Withers said. “We’ve sacrificed our bodies and our minds to prepare for a night like this. We have to keep sacrificing in order to maintain these wins or maintain the level of play that we had.”

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