Louisville Cardinals vs. Pepperdine Waves Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 17th 2023

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If expectations weren’t particularly high for Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, the Cardinals’ 4-6 start has fueled speculation that coach Kenny Payne’s job is in jeopardy.

Louisville, picked to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC, hosts Pepperdine Sunday having lost three straight games. The last two have come to nonconference foes DePaul on the road and Arkansas State in Louisville on Wednesday.

Payne, in his second season at his alma mater, is 8-34 and fielding questions about his team’s effort and his own future. The Cardinals led Arkansas State 31-29 at halftime but lost 75-63. Only their 7-0 run in the last two minutes made the score look closer.

“I think guys in the first half, we didn’t play great, but we did a decent job,” Payne said. “But in the second half, I thought we again played selfish, evident by (two) assists, evident by guys just driving the ball and playing to score for themselves and not their teammates.”

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who averages just 8.1 points per game, finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Mike James and Tre White scored 10 points apiece, and Skyy Clark added nine. That trio averages more than 40 per contest combined.

Rather than worrying about his future, Payne said he is staying in the present, concentrating on “am I doing right by the young people, and every single day I question that. What I mean by ‘question it,’ when the day is over, did I cheat Skyy Clark nine out of 10 days? No. Did I cheat Tre White? No. Did I cheat Brandon? No. I live my life that way, not worrying about the outside.”

Pepperdine (5-7), which hails from the West Coast Conference, hasn’t played since defeating UC San Diego on Dec. 9 in Malibu, Calif. The Waves, who trailed by three at the break, had lost two straight and five out of six.

A few factors came together, coach Lorenzo Romar said.

“Jalen Pitre brought some energy in the second half and started crashing the glass. We had one offensive rebound in the first half. We ended up with 12. He was the catalyst for that,” Romar said. “… We did a good job of getting stops, and we were able to slowly, slowly chip away and eventually take the lead.”

Houston Mallette scored all of his team-high 19 points in the second half, going 7 of 11 from the floor after going 0 for 3 in the first half. Michael Ajayi added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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