It’s early. It’s only two games into the season. But this Louisville press may be actually better than Louisville’s suffocating defensive attack was last season. Louisville’s tandem of Chris Jones, Russ Smith and Co. have been as good as advertised two games into the season. Chris Jones may actually present more problems on the defensive side than Peyton Siva did with is quickness.
While most thought that the new fouling rules would inhibit Louisville’s defensive attack from being as effective as it has been in years past – it hasn’t shown.
We’ll find out exactly how good this Louisville team is defensively soon enough. But chew on this: Louisville forced a turnover off Hofstra 35% of the time the Pride touched the ball, for a total of 22. It’s Hofstra, sure, but that’s mighty impressive – especially when you consider that the Cardinals haven’t ran any of their traditional match-up zone sets just yet.
Rebound Woes Continue
What happens when you loss a 6 foot 11 inch big man who is good for 8 to 10 rebounds a game? You’re seeing it. Louisville continues to show one of the one weakness of it’s team in the rebounding category. Tonight they matched Hofstra on the glass as both teams claimed 38 rebounds on the class.
Louisville needs to fix it quickly before the approach the meat of their schedule. While it is less of a problem for teams like Louisville who heavily turn over their opponent – it’s a problem nonetheless. Rick Pitino has harped on Russ Smith to be more proactive on the glass. While that may true and while Louisville does need production from their guards on the glass- Russ Smith gathered 3 boards tonight, Terry Rozier had 5.
Louisville may want to get it from their big man first before they worry about guard production. The Guards were only able to combine for 9 rebounds on the glass. Now with the previously suspended Chane Behanan back in action, fans hope that production would go up. Or maybe not? He only grabbed 1 tonight along with his 4 points in limited minutes.
Wanye Blackshear Finds His Shot
Wanye Blackshear has had a rather interesting career at Louisville. Time-and-Time it seems that we think he’s ‘turned the corner’ and then he doesn’t. Maybe he has now. After struggling in the first game against Charleston missing a consecutive nine shots – Blackshear found his stroke tonight.
It’s a very good sign if Wanye Blackshear is able to finally find his true game in his third season at Louisville.
He was crisp, fluid. He didn’t force anything and let the shots come to him. When the game finished, he found himself with a stuffed stat sheet finishing with 9 points on 3/6 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. All of Blackshear’s 3 field goals came from behind the three point line. If he is able to do that consistently, the Cardinals can go to another level. After all, what makes a team full of shooters more dangerous? Another shooter – particularly from the perimeter.
New and Improved Russ Smith Is Terrific
This is a different Russ Smith, folks. Quite often, he’s doing more things that make you say ‘Wow’ as opposed to ‘What?’. The NBA scouts wanted that and it’s exactly what Russ Smith has delivered.
Sure, their were still a few questionable decisions that Smith – especially early on. But it hardly overshadowed his 30 point output, 1 point shy of his career high. The points are nice and while Louisville needs him, they also need another floor general on the court to replace the dearly departed Peyton Siva. He was that tonight. In the midst of his massive scoring output, the Junior guard shot 12/22, but more importantly he had 5 assists, 1 turnover.
There will be points in this season where Louisville has to overcome adversity and will look for a calm, collected leader to deliver that. Russ Smith – once again – shown he’s capable of taking on that role.
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