LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jordan Nwora scored a career-high 22 points, Ryan McMahon made six critical free throws down the stretch and Louisville held off Vermont 86-78 on Friday night.
Nwora continued to spark the Cardinals (3-0) off the bench, scoring eight points with consecutive 3s during a 13-2 spurt for a 45-35 lead at the break. After Steven Enoch scored Louisville’s first 10 points of the second half, Nwora followed with a jumper to start a 9-0 run over 3:17 for a 66-45 lead with 11:33 remaining.
The Catamounts didn’t wilt and got within 80-72 on Stef Smith’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes left. Nwora answered with a pair of free throws, Darius Perry made a jumper with 1:31 left and McMahon (eight points) sank two more from the line with a minute left, building a cushion to survive the Catamounts (2-2) and win their second game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Nwora finished 7 of 11 from the field with four 3s to top his previous high of 20 against Southern on Tuesday night. Perry added 17 while Enoch and V.J. King each added 14 for Louisville, which shot 53 percent from the field.
Anthony Lamb scored 25 points and Smith 24 for Vermont (2-2), which led 15-8 before Louisville began taking control. Two days after their record-breaking 122-56 win over NVU-Lyndon, the Catamounts shot 54 percent in the second half and 49 percent overall but fell short.
Vermont: Forced out to the perimeter by Louisville’s pack line defense, the Catamounts hit 3-pointers to grab an early lead and mount a couple of second-half runs to get within single digits. But foul troubles took their toll and sent the Cardinals to the line, and time eventually ran out on their hope to wipe out a big deficit.
Louisville: The Cardinals were about to hit cruise control in the second half before things got tense. But they didn’t fade and continued to hit free throws with many chances, making 26 of 33. They also controlled the boards 30-24.
Vermont hosts Yale on Wednesday to begin a two-game home stand.
Louisville faces Tennessee on Wednesday in Brooklyn, New York, in continuation of the NIT Season Tip-Off.