The scripts had ended much the same, but they’d had twists from game to game.
Entering Tuesday’s tilt with No. 22 Maryland, the Louisville men’s basketball team had hung tough at the KFC Yum! Center and been slayed away from it. That had been the repeating plot of a winless start.
The Terrapins provided a twist Tuesday, but there wasn’t much drama.
Maryland ran away from the Cardinals in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, winning 79-54 to drop Louisville to 0-7. It was U of L’s first home loss this season by more than a point.
It was a new home look but a similarly dismal outcome to Louisville’s 0-3 finish at the Maui Invitational. Playing against a quality opponent, the Cards were reasonably competitive for the first 20 minutes and then faded hard after halftime.
"We did not compete, we did not fight," Louisville coach Kenny Payne said. "We didn't meet their intensity."
Cards swept in Maui:Louisville men's basketball swept in Maui, falls to 0-6 with loss to Cincinnati
What was left of the Yum! Center crowd at the end showed its appreciation for strong effort from players who came in from deep on the Cards’ bench. Freshman Fabio Basili was a particular favorite, scoring six points and pursuing loose balls with a vigor that seemed mostly absent in the heat of the game.
Louisville got 15 points from El Ellis, but no other Card finished in double figures. The Cardinals shot 33.9% from the floor and 4 for 16 from 3-point range.
U of L joined winless California as the only power-conference teams in the past 40 years to start a season 0-7, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
At one point in the first half, Maryland’s Donta Scott — listed at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds — scored over Louisville’s 6-10, 250-pound Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and backpedaled down the court with his hand lowered, palm down, at his side — the universal basketball signal for “too small.”
Scott wasn’t the biggest guy on the court, but he gave the Terrapins (7-0) a sizable offensive boost. He finished with 18 points — leading three Terps in double figures — and five rebounds.
Maryland led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but Louisville hung around with miniature runs, cutting that lead to eight three different times before halftime and trailing 37-26 at the half.
"The last thing I said to the guys before walking on the court (at halftime) was, 'The first five minutes, fight. Be desperate. Don't let them make a run,'" Payne said. "Last words I said."
But Maryland opened the second half with 3-pointers on its first five possessions, good for a 15-6 run and a 52-32 lead with 16:32 to play in the game. The Terps were 5 for 5 from long range on those possessions.
There were other stretches of Louisville futility — at one point the Cardinals missed 16 of 18 shots as Maryland’s lead ballooned to 33 points — but that opening flurry to the second half effectively settled the outcome.
Louisville had six assists and 13 turnovers. The Cardinals have yet to have more assists than turnovers in a game this season, and they entered the game ranked last in Division I basketball in assist-to-turnover ratio. Louisville has had fewer than 10 assists in five of its seven games.
Maryland scored 21 points off Louisville turnovers.
"That's a huge thing that's happening every single game," Payne said. "That's killing us. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball."
If you’re looking for a positive number: Louisville turned the ball over on 18.6% of its possessions. That’s below its 25.5% turnover rate entering Tuesday’s game, which ranked 356th of 363 Division I teams entering the night.
Payne on his team's 0-7 start:
"As a leader, I'm being evaluated by this. I'm not in any way discouraged. Am I hestitant about it? Not at all. Do I feel like we're not gonna get it done? Not at all. I know I'm gonna flip this program around."
Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Maryland basketball routs Louisville in ACC/Big Ten Challenge