Being No. 1 makes Louisville basketball big target

The KFC Yum! Center was on fire during player introductions Tuesday as the top-ranked University of Louisville basketball team hosted fourth-ranked Michigan in front of 21,762 fans. Flames light up the backboards on both ends of the court. Jordan Nwora, in top phots, led Louisville with 22 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Michigan (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Almost cliche-ish, but it bears repeating.

Now that No. 1 Louisville has dispatched Michigan, Coach Chris Mack’s biggest challenge will be keeping his team humble and focused.

The coveted No. 1 ranking is nice. But means little. Believe me every team that comes into the Yum Center or every opponents arena the Cardinals visit will have extra incentive.

Mack said it following Tuesday’s win over Michigan. “We haven’t arrived or anything like that.” No it hasn’t. It is early December. This team as all teams will look different when March arrives.

The thing that stood out in the win over Michigan was defense. Louisville (8-0) held a team averaging over 80 points to 43 and a field goal shooting percentage in the 30 percent range.

Louisville and its massively loud fans made it difficult for Michigan to think straight. Most every time Michigan attacked the lane there was a Cardinal defender in the way.

Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams all had their moments. Guard Darius Perry was steady. Ryan McMahon would drive and would get fouled. Fresh Kimble and Samuel Williamson provided support off the bench.

“On some nights your offense isn’t going to be there. But your defense will,” said Mack.

Also give Michigan credit for its defense. Louisville was forced to take some ill advised shots. Nwora and Perry both took some off balanced attempts. This team is going to have to live with that. Mack said as much following a win over Akron over a week ago. “I can’t micro manage every shot.”

Pittsburgh (7-2) comes to the Yum Center Friday, 9 p.m. for an ACC game. You can bet the Panthers are chomping to get a shot at No. 1. You can bet Pitt fans remember No. 1-ranked Panther team that was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by UofL in 2009.

Should be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle success.

 

 

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Author: Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

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