Louisville fans are counting down the days for the annual Battle of the Bluegrass now just 14 days away. Also, conference play is right around the corner. If planned out correctly I was always a firm believer that the early nonconference schedule was critical in getting a team ready for the conference grind. This Louisville team should be ready when conference play starts. They have played against talent, different styles, have played in close games, have played in overtime, and have played some scrappy opponents.
This season’s nonconference schedule has had it all. And They’ll get another scrappy opponent on Saturday afternoon with Kent State coming to town. The Golden Flashes come into this game playing some solid basketball. They’ve won 6 in a row, including a 2-point win over Vanderbilt as a 12-point underdog. They’ll be a 13 point underdog in this one. As a team, Kent State is averaging 82.2 points per game on 45.6% shooting from the field, 37.5% from 3-point range and 70.4% from the foul line this season. That’s good enough to land them in the Top 50 nationally in scoring offense at 48th. This Kent State team is an excellent passing team and they don’t turn the ball over. They are 32nd in the nation in assists/turnovers ratio.
If I had to point to one area that this Louisville team needed to improve that would be on the defensive side of the ball. They are still very much a work in progress on that end of the floor but are moving in the right direction. Now up to 111th in FG% defense, 168th in 3pt FG% defense, and 133rd in scoring defense. You can see the light come on during certain stretches but then it dims a little throughout. These guys are starting to get it. An opponent like Kent State will be another tough test defensively.
Things are rolling right along on the offensive end of the floor for our Cardinals. We got a guy like Jordan Nwora who is gonna get his no matter who we play. Jordan is in the top 125 nationally in points per game, top 115 in rebounds per game and in top 100 in total points and rebounds on the season. He is the best scorer we’ve seen since Russ Smith. I knew this kid was it. Glad to be right. We have other guys who are stepping up as well. Malik Willams just produced his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds the last time out. He is 72nd in the country in blocked shots this season.
We also have the top free throw shooter in the country in Ryan McMahon. This young man is also effective at getting to the line. Most underestimate his game. That’s a mistake. Hope opposing players keep making that mistake. Dwayne Sutton has also been important for this team. He’s a guy that’s gonna give you a great effort everytime he puts on the uniform. He is averaging a solid 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Our glue guy has been Christen Cunningham who leads the team in assists with 3 a game. It’s great to have a mature guy like him running the point.
There are also guys like Steven, VJ, Khwan, Akoy and Darius who at times have all made their impact felt in a game this season. I like how Coach Mack has developed his rotation. He’s let these guys settle into their roles and it has been fun to watch. It all seems to be coming together at the right time and at the right pace. Still, a long way to go sure but man I like the progression.
With another scrappy opponent coming into the Yum Center on Saturday afternoon it’s another opportunity for Mack Attack to get better and to continue that progression. I’ve seen some talented Louisville teams lose games like that last one against Lipscomb. But the toughness and winning spirit that has been instilled into this group were on full display in that one. They are headed in the right direction. Enjoy another step in that process folks. Go Cards!
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