This Louisville Basketball schedule is going to end up one of the toughest in the country and maybe the toughest when all is said and done. The grind continues tonight with Michigan State coming to town. With the grind another opportunity for a big win.
Izzo has another good basketball team. The Spartans have won 4 straight after that opening loss against Kansas. They beat a decent UCLA team and Texas team during that stretch. Our Cardinals will face the best backcourt duo they will play all season tonight. In their last game against Texas Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston accounted for 49 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists. These guys have played side by side for over 70 games. I think they even room together. To say they have on-court chemistry is an understatement.
In saying that I think the obvious key to a big win tonight is trying to neutralize those guys and force the other guys around them to make some plays to beat you. But it’s not just about the scoring on their end that concerns me. This Louisville team enters this game with 3 guys Nwora, Perry, and Enoch averaging in double figures. VJ King was another but has dropped below that average. This group is at its best when they are all contributing consistently.
I don’t think you’ll see this Louisville team win many games with just one or two guys pulling the weight. In the Marquette loss, Louisville’s top scorer was Christen Cunningham with 16 points, three assists, and two rebounds. The only other Cardinal in double-figures there was Jordan Nwora, with 15 points and seven rebounds. This team has to play with a balanced attack to win games. Especially this game tonight. Tough, Together…
If the Cardinals can play some solid defense and hold their guards in check along with having a balanced attack on the offensive end of the court I can see us coming up with a big win tonight. But all of that is much easier said than done. I’m interested in seeing how our guys come out tonight after that gut-wrencher against Marquette. Can’t let one tough loss drag into the next one. Was something that was an issue last season. Gotta be Unbreakable.
This Louisville Basketball season will be like a fun rollercoaster ride.
That loss on Wednesday was one that didn’t really seem like a loss at all. Our guys came out playing inspired basketball and gave the #5 team in the country all they wanted. This Louisville team is going to win some big games this season but it won’t be without the growing pains. Learning and adapting to a new style of play, learning a new defense and just learning how to win close games will all be a part of it.
I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face on Wednesday night. Just the offensive prowess of this Louisville group is enough alone to be optimistic. Tennessee came into that game allowing just under 60 points a game and our Cardinals put up 81 on them. It was defense and turnovers that ultimately cost the Cards. Louisville shot 44.1% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc, however, allowed Tennessee to shoot 54.0% from the field in the loss. Louisville was outrebounded by Tennessee by a 38-32 margin and lost the turnover battle by a 14-10 margin.
Tonight an old rivalry will be renewed as the Cards take on Marquette in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The defense will once again be the biggest concern for our Cardinals as they come into this game ranked just 231st in scoring defense and 256th in defensive FG%. Marquette is averaging 74.8 ppg on 44.0% shooting from the field. The Golden Eagles are averaging 10.0 three-pointers per game on 36.2% shooting from beyond the arc. They have a couple of guys who can really light it up.
I don’t think they will pose as big of a threat on the inside as Tennessee did but like Tennessee, they can attack from all levels. Our guys will have to be tougher on this end of the floor and again try not to be careless with the ball on the offensive end. Turnovers also a big part of early season basketball.
Jordan Nwora is going to be one of the best players on the floor in every game Louisville plays this season. But has to cut down on those turnovers. It really does neutralize his game. Akoy Agau was a nice surprise in the last game. If Louisville can get that kind of effort from him moving forward it will be a big help to our frontcourt depth. Looking forward to seeing what his follow up performance is tonight.
It’s going to be a roller coaster type season but a fun rollercoaster, not the scary kind. I think we will enjoy watching this team learn and grow over the course of it. I’m looking forward to another step along that journey tonight. Go Cards!
I’ve been waiting and looking forward to the first big basketball game of the season. With this schedule, I didn’t have to wait long. Our Cardinals will play a pretty good Volunteers team here in about an hour as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off from the Barclays Center. Louisville has won the last 5 matchups against the Vols.
I think the biggest challenge for the Cardinals tonight will be how well they have learned the new defense. Will they be able to stay disciplined enough at this point in the season and stay out of foul trouble. We don’t have the bodies for foul trouble. This Tennessee team moves the ball really well and they do a great job at finding the open man. They are 14th nationally with 20.7 assists per game. Hope our guys are ready.
Scoring hasn’t been an issue for our guys either with four players Nwora, Perry, Enoch, and VJ all averaging double figures. This is a very offensive oriented Louisville team with 3-point shooting big men and all. The versatility of Malik and Steven could pay off tonight. They can stretch a defense.
Nwora leads the Cardinals with 18 points and 6 rebounds per game while Ryan Mack leads Louisville with 3 assists per game. Ryan makes good things happen when he’s in the game. His Basketball IQ is off the charts. As a team, the Cardinals are averaging 91.7 points per game on 53.5% shooting from the field, 37.3% from behind the 3-point line and an impressive 78% from the foul line this season. Getting to the foul line will be big tonight.
It won’t be just a game of horse for Louisville. This Tennessee team’s defense is some of the best in the country. They held the Yellow Jackets to just 53 points in their last game, which is their average in terms of points against this season. The Volunteers are ranked 4th in the nation in field goal defense. This Louisville team has been prone to turn the ball over and take a bad shot. Can’t do that against this Vols team. Cards have to make every possession count.
I’m super optimistic. If our guys don’t let the bright lights get to them I think they win this game. I’ve said it 20 times just this week. Coach Mack is for real. And this team thru about 8 guys deep can run with anyone in college basketball. I really believe that. This team has been working hard and are walking with a different swagger. That will pay off tonight.
Tonight one of the photographers at the game Gail Kamenish captured this picture of Coach Mack.
It reminded me of the Simpsons Characters Mr. Burns. One of Mr. Burns’ trademark expressions is the word “Excellent”, muttered slowly in a low, sinister voice while steepling his fingertips. And He occasionally orders Smithers to “release the hounds”.
Tonight Coach Mack released the hounds on Southern as Louisville flexes their muscle in game #2 with a 104-54 win. Coach Mack also talks a lot about excellence. Tonight in his post game you can tell that he believes his team took another step towards that goal tonight. He still hasn’t smiled during a post-game but tonight he appeared satisfied.
It’s getting to be the standard to talk about Jordan Nwora after these games. And tonight he stood out again coming off the bench scoring 20 points, grabbing 6 boards, with 2 steals and a blocked shot. There was one sequence in the game that stood out the most to me tonight. Jordan missed a three badly… Sprinted down the floor squared up on D, grabbed a defensive rebound and then led the break hitting CC for a three coming back up the floor. Good stuff!
Following Nwora tonight in scoring and also having himself a game was Malik Williams with 17 points and 5 boards. Malik is one of the guys on this team whose upside is off the charts. He really is a ball of clay at this point just waiting for someone to mold into an NBA type player. Coach Mack has a great reputation for player development, especially with Malik’s skill set. Mack knows how to use that versatility.
Another guy with a high upside is Steven Enoch. This big fella has not missed a free throw yet. Going a perfect 9-9 in game one and 5-5 tonight. He is 14-14 on the season. I said it last week and will say it again this week. This guy is a great weapon to have.
Honorable mention tonight goes to Akoy Agau.
(Old Faithful) The average interval between its spoutings is 78 minutes.
(Old Faithful Akoy) The average interval between his games played in a Louisville uniform is 1439 days. It was good to see him back on the court. That guy has had some journey.
It’s all about taking steps forward. Tonight Team 105 did that. L’s Up!
Cardinal fans have waited all summer for the Chris Mack Era to begin… and Thusday night it started with a bang literally as the new intros featured fire, pyro and a laser show. But it didn’t take long for the celebration to end and the grind to begin. Defensive lapses, turnovers, and offensive inconsistency kept a scrappy Nicholls State team in the game before the Cardinals were able to pull away late.
Chris Mack didn’t make his way from a JV Basketball coach to a 4 million dollar gig at Louisville by settling for any type of mediocrity. And he showed me tonight that he isn’t going to let any of the sentimental stuff get in his way either. When I asked him how his first Louisville win felt in the postgame he didn’t mix his words in expressing his displeasure for how this game turned out.
It is refreshing to have a head coach that doesn’t sugar coat things. I don’t think we’ll ever be left wondering what Coach Mack really thinks. He’s gonna tell you. This guy is a winner in every aspect. I know that his drive prohibits him from showing too much emotion but I bet that he will have the game ball from Thursday night saved to commemorate his first win as the Louisville coach. There haven’t been many other guys get that first one here as head coach of the Cardinals. Pretty big deal IMO.
And even though the game didn’t go as well as they had hoped there were some bright spots on the player’s side of things as well. Steven Enoch is going to be a beast for this program. He pretty much had his way against the much smaller Nicholls State frontcourt. He had 15 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocked shots. Perhaps his most impressive stat line was going 9 for 9 at the free throw line. Talk about a weapon.
The Cardinals spent a lot of time tonight at the charity stripe going 42 of 55 from the line for a respectable 76.4%. I really like how Darius Perry took the ball to the basket. He ended up with 14 points. Jordan Nwora struggled from the outside and adjusted his game making some strong moves to the basket. He ended up with 12 points. Ryan McMahon provided a spark in the first half hitting some big three-point shots.
I know that these guys can’t relish in a close win against a scrappy but inferior opponent. But this game was good for them and I’m glad the way it turned out. Thursday night started my 6th season behind the scenes covering Louisville Basketball. I’m looking forward to covering this team and watching them grow and am excited for the Chris Mack Era. L’s Up!