The Kenny Payne era of Louisville basketball has gotten off to a rugged start.

Louisville has lost its first two games to Bellarmine and Wright State by one point. If last season’s 51-50 loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament is included, the Cardinals have lost three-consecutive games by a single point for the first time in program history.

In a new era, Louisville faces an uphill climb in its quest to return to relevancy. The Cardinals will try to stop their unique losing skid Tuesday when they host Appalachian State.

“We have to change,” Payne said after his team’s buzzer-beating loss to Wright State on Saturday. “There are things within the team that need to change. Things about our personalities we need to change. Things about our culture we need to change. Things about our work ethic we need to change.”

El Ellis has emerged as Louisville’s standout. The guard leads the team, averaging 21.5 points a game. He scored 29 against Wright State, including the Cardinals’ final 13 points.

Appalachian State heads to Louisville with a 2-0 start, most recently a 79-74 overtime win over North Carolina Central. The Mountaineers seek their first 3-0 start since the 1997-98 season, and their first win over a Power 5 opponent since Virginia Tech in 2014.

Appalachian State leads the nation in blocked shots, totaling 19 over its first two games. True freshman Justin Abson has averaged four blocks per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. Abson will face a legitimate test against Louisville’s surging post player Jae’Lyn Withers.

“He’s just good. We haven’t talked to him about blocking shots or anything,” Appalachian State head coach Dustin Kerns said of the 6-foot-9 Abson. “He’s earned that. He’s got such a natural shot blocking length and has gotten a lot of quality reps at practice. I don’t want to take credit for it, because I don’t think it is anything we’re doing. He’s a good player.”

Donovan Gregory led the way for Appalachian State in the win over NC Central. He scored or assisted on 11 successive points to start the second half. That helped lead the Mountaineers to their 19th comeback win after a halftime deficit under Kerns, who is starting his fourth season at the school in Boone, N.C.

–Field Level Media