In their last tune up before the Battle 4 Atlantis, the University of Louisville Cardinals used defense and a surprise outside shooting game to take down the Miami (OH) Redhawks 80-39 in an afternoon contest at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville played like a team worthy of its early season #2 ranking, even taking the lead by as many as 48 points during the second half. The Redhawks were victim to Thursday’s Samford game.
In that contest, the Cards went into cruise control in their victory, forgetting to play the stifling defense that got them the big lead in that game. Not so with this particular 40 minutes of Hell. UofL continued its defensive pressure the entire game. Because of that, Miami learned just how deep this Cardinal team is. With blowout victories, coaches usually play the kids with less experience or the ones whose talent didn’t live up to their high school hype. The problem with that approach is that Louisville does not have any players like that on its roster this year.
The Cards don’t lose much when players come off the bench. Fans don’t have to go, “Oh no, Such-and-Such is in the game.” Now they get to say, “All right! Tim Henderson is in the game.” When stars like Peyton Siva or Gorgui Dieng need a breather, the back ups are more than capable. For proof, look at the stat sheet. No Cardinal played more than 23 minutes and the team still won by 41 points. That’s what a team needs to go deep in the NCAA tournament.
And when the entire team plays defense, games go just like this one. Louisville held Miami to just 26.8% shooting and it was even worse from the 3 point arc where they held the Redhawks to just 20% shooting. The Cards harassed on every inbound and every half court set. No shot went uncontested by their energetic defense.
Meanwhile, as Coach Rick Pitino continues to tell his team, defense creates offense and offense was where the team shined today as well. The fearless Russ Smith finished the game with 23 points, powered by 5 three pointers. Wayne Blackshear impressed with 14 points and lighting it up on 4 of 7 long distance triples.
Louisville dominated in the paint, too, as you might imagine with Dieng, Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell clogging up the middle and winning the rebounding battle down low. 42 rebounds, 22 assists and 10 steals will make for a head coach in a good mood after the game.
From here the season really gets ratcheted up. Starting Thursday that Cards enter the Battle 4 Atlantis against Northern Iowa, a game that takes place the Bahamas. With this tournament you win and you keep playing. That means Louisville could face Missouri, Memphis, Minnesota or Duke during the course of the Battle. That’s an intense gauntlet and will show the team what they’re made of.
The Cards return to the KFC Yum! Center December 1st to take on Illinois State.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton