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No. 18 FSU Seminoles upset No. 7 Louisville Cardinals on the road

Florida State wins its sixth straight game as M.J. Walker returns from a bone bruise to score a team-high 23 points.
Florida State guard M.J. Walker tries to shoot over Louisville forward Dwayne Sutton during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. [TIMOTHY D. EASLEY  |  AP]
Florida State guard M.J. Walker tries to shoot over Louisville forward Dwayne Sutton during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. [TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP]
Published Jan. 4

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — M.J. Walker could have spent this weekend preparing for college football’s national championship game. Instead, he helped Florida State’s basketball team make a statement Saturday on the road.

Walker, a five-star basketball recruit who turned down football scholarships from Michigan, Miami and Clemson, scored 23 and made 5 of 7 3-pointers for the 18th-ranked Seminoles, who upset No. 7 Louisville 78-65. It was his first action since suffering a bone bruise in a win over North Alabama last Saturday.

“He hadn’t practiced probably in about 10 days,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He didn’t even practice yesterday, but he walked through everything.”

The Seminoles (13-2, 3-1 ACC), who were 6 1/2-point underdogs, endured a big game from Louisville’s Jordan Nwora to pull the upset. The preseason All-America scored 32, matching a career high.

But the Cardinals (11-3, 2-1) could not overcome a 55.2 percent shooting performance by the Seminoles in losing their second straight. FSU made a season-best 11 of 23 3-pointers in extending its winning streak to six.

“I give all the credit to Florida State,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “I thought for, really, the entire game they were the tougher team. I thought our guards got manhandled. They shot over the top of our guards, especially in the second half.”

Walker finished one point short of his career high. Trent Forrest added 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and Devin Vassell scored 14. Those three guards are all 6 feet 4 or taller. Three of four Louisville guards who played 14 or more minutes were 6-2 or shorter.

Nwora had a hot hand early for Louisville, scoring 21 points in the first half. The junior shot 6-of-9 from the floor, but the Cardinals combined to make just 10 of 37. They went the last 5:04 without a field goal as the Seminoles took 39-32 lead into the break.

Walker helped offset Nwora’s early barrage. Usually a starter, the 6-5 junior came off the bench to score 15 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

He said the bruise hasn’t completely healed. He felt he was at about 90 percent as he continues to get treatment.

“When your adrenaline’s rushing and then just who I am, when I’m out there on the battlefield, I want to sell out for my teammates, so I don’t think about (the injury) at all,” Walker said. “When I was out there, I didn’t feel anything. It just came natural.”

FSU led 52-42 with 13:43 remaining. Louisville cut that to 54-51 on Nwora’s putback, but that was as close as the Cardinals would get.

“They played better than us today,” Louisville guard Lamarr Kimble said. “We’ll see them again down the road, so I think our group of guards will be ready for that.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Look for the Seminoles, who beat a ranked foe for the third time this season, to move up in Monday’s poll. The Cardinals, who spent two weeks at the top spot last month, will likely find themselves outside the top 10.

HOMECOMING OF SORTS

The trip to Louisville allowed Hamilton to reconnect with his old boss, former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall. Hamilton served as an assistant to Hall for 11 of the 12 years he spent in Lexington, including the 1978 championship team. On Friday, Mike Summers, a former assistant football coach at Louisville and Hall’s son-in-law, brought the 91-year-old Hall to the team’s hotel for a visit.

“I just want to make sure that every chance that’s available, I’m going to try to come up here and enjoy those moments,” Hamilton said.

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: Its perimeter shooting not only helped it beat a top-10 team on the road, it also gave the Seminoles consecutive wins at Louisville for the first time in a series that dates back to 1968. FSU also won 80-76 at the KFC Yum Center on Feb. 3, 2018.

Louisville: Playing for the third time in 17 days, it had its worst shooting half of the season in the first half. The Cardinals followed that up by committing 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second.

UP NEXT

Florida State travels to Wake Forest on Wednesday.

Louisville hosts Miami on Tuesday.

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