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Johnson out, but Cards still too much for Irish

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- No David Johnson? No problem.


Not with Carlik Jones running the show, Jae'Lyn playing his best all-around game of the season vs. an ACC foe, Samuell Williamson attacking the glass and Malik Williams taking what Louisville coach Chris Mack called a "big jump" from his season debut three days before.


In fact, there were contributions from almost everyone as UofL (12-5, 7-4 ACC) defeated Notre Dame (9-12, 6-9) 69-57 Tuesday night for its first victory in 22 days while making its first appearance in the KFC Yum! Center during the same time span.


The win erased some of the bad taste from last Saturday's 99-54 walloping at North Carolina and gave the Cardinals at least a little momentum and confidence heading into Saturday's crucial game at Duke.


"I think we competed for a full 40 minutes," Jones said. "At North Carolina we competed for awhile, then gave up, but in this game we definitely competed for 40 minutes. I think we were very motivated. I wouldn't say we forgot that (UNC) game, but we put it behind us. Our mindset was to turn the page and do what we needed to do to get better and win this game."


Although Notre Dame is a second-division ACC team with little or no hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, UofL's solid win was impressive considering it didn't have the ailing Johnson, its second-leading scorer and assists provider.


Mack said he was informed around noon Saturday that Johnson was sick and wouldn't be able to play.


"I was in line at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee when (trainer) Fred Hina called and told me David had a temperature and was achy all over," Mack said. "It's been wild to say the least. At least he has tested negative for COVID. Who knows what it is. Now we've got to figure out how to get him back in time for Duke. In the meantime, we'll probably lose someone else to the Spanish flu."


Jones said it was "very different" not having Johnson around, both before and during the game.


"Even in warmups it was different," Jones said. "David is usually the one who breaks the huddle and we were all just kind of standing around with our hands up for a minute or so. I wish he was with us, but everyone realized they had to step up and everybody did step up."


Indeed, Johnson's teammates more than made up for his absence, with five of them scoring in double figures, led by Jones' 18 points. Withers notched his third career double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Dre Davis and Williamson each scored 14 points and Quinn Slazinski came off the bench to add 10. Williams got 10 rebounds and six points in 26 minutes.


Besides his scoring punch, Jones had four assists and four rebounds and was the only player on either team to log the entire 40 minutes.


"My assistants asked me before the game who was going to be the backup point guard if Carlik got in foul trouble," Mack said. "I told them Carlik is one guy I don't worry about. He's a baller and he's not coming out of the game. If he gets five fouls, I'll take a technical and keep him out there til he gets six."


Jones combined with Williamson for the pivotal play of the game. Notre Dame had closed to within 56-51 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining when Williamson corralled his own missed shot in traffic and fired a pass outside to Jones, who drained a 3-pointer. That sparked a 9-2 run that essentially sealed Notre Dame's doom.


"That was a huge offensive rebound," Mack said. "And Sam had great presence of mind to find Carlik calling for the ball. Quickly hitting one like that off an offensive rebound takes the winds out of their sails. And the good thing was we kept our foot on the gas the rest of the way."


Louisville led all the way, dominating on the boards and taking advantage of Notre Dame's cold shooting. The Irish, one of the most proficient offensive teams in the ACC, got plenty of wide open looks, but resembled the team that blew a 20-point lead in the final 17 minutes in a loss to Syracuse on Saturday. They finished 21-57 for 36.8 percent, including 7-of-28 from distance (25.0), and Nate Laszewski, their leading scorer and rebounder, managed just two points and four rebounds. Juwan Durham led the losers with 18 points.


The Cards clobbered Notre Dame on the boards 45-30, getting 18 second chance points.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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