Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kenny Payne gets 1st win as Louisville head coach, leaving Cal the last winless team in Division 1
By ADAM ZAGORIA
Louisville won’t be winless at Christmas.
After an 0-9 start that was the worst in ACC history, Kenny Payne got his first win as coach of the Cardinals, 94-83, over Western Kentucky thanks largely to El Ellis’s 30 points and 10 assists. 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.”
Louisville (1-9) hadn’t won a game in 281 days, since March 8 over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament under interim coach Mike Pegues. It was their worst start since opening 0-10 in the 1939-40 season.
The win means Cal (0-11) is the lone remaining winless team in Division 1.
In conveying his message to his players, Payne, the former Louisville standout and Kentucky and Knicks assistant said: “Winning one, imagine what it’s like to win 80 or 90 percent of your games. You gotta sacrifice your life to it. And so this hopefully is a steppingstone that they greatly needed because they put in a lot of work.”
He added: “Let’s prove to people that you belong. Let’s stop having teams come in here and walk out of here with a confidence. Let’s understand where you are. We’re in Louisville. This is a place that traditionally has been one of the most fierce places to play, one of the most fierce teams consistently over the years.
“Respect that. Go out and know that you’re fighting for more than just yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about everybody else.”
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.
“Sacrifices is one word that (Payne) still uses, even after the win,” Jae’Lyn 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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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.