The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Knights

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It’s been a rough couple of days for the Louisville basketball program, but there is no time for moping during this time of year. The Cardinals must shake off their woes in a hurry as they will open up AAC conference play on New Years Eve down in Orlando against UCF. The Cardinals and the Knights have only played one other time on the hardwood with the Cards claiming victory in that one 78-58 in 1999. UCF comes into this game riding a five game win streak and in four seasons under their current coach they are 22-1 in the month of December at home. They are 3-25 all-time vs top 25 teams. Tuesday will be the first time they’ve ever hosted a defending national champion.

With the news that Chane Behanan will no longer be on the team the Cardinals are going to have to adjust to a more unconventional type of line-up but it still won’t be as unconventional as the group UCF puts on the floor. UCF coach Donnie Jones knows that if he wants to try and win some games this season in the AAC especially against teams like Louisville that he needs his best players on the floor regardless of position. That’s why on Tuesday evening you might see a small forward running the offense and the nominal 5 man taking most of the three point shots. This is a very versatile team.

Leading the way for the Knights is Calvin Newell (14.8 points, 2.6 rebounds), Isaiah Sykes (13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds), Tristan Spurlock (13.8 points, 6.8 rebounds), Kasey Wilson (11.5 points, 6.1 rebounds), and Dylan Karell (0.7 points, 1.7 rebounds).
Calvin leads the AAC in steals, Sykes is called “Mr Versatility”. He starts at the 3, but can play any position from point guard to power forward. He declared for the NBA draft, but withdrew in June. Spurlock is among The American leaders in rebounds (6.8) and 3-point field goal percentage (42.3). Wilson is an excellent 3 point shooter and is a floor-stretcher who can draw an opponent’s big man away from the basket. Karell has 7 blocked shots since becoming a starter.

UCF comes into Tuesdays game averaging 80.1 points-per-game, while shooting 47.9% from the floor and 40.1% from 3-point range. The Knights are converting 57.4% of its attempts from the free-throw line. Defensively, UCF is allowing 67.2 points-per-game as the opposition is shooting 42.2% from the floor. The Knights are out-rebounding their opponents 452-379 with a rebounding margin of +6.6 averaging 41.1 boards-per-contest.
This UCF group enters the game against Louisville playing its best basketball of the season and the team’s shooting from deep is a big reason for the success. In their last four games, the Knights connected on 51-of-102 (50.0 percent) of their 3-point field goal attempts. They also are doing a good job defending the three ball and lead the American in 3-point field goal percentage defense at 28.8.

Central Florida

Kenpom Ranks
Overall – #116
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-101.2 ranks 126th
Offensive Adjustment Efficiency
-105.3 ranks 149th

Cardinal fans to say this is going to be a dangerous game is a understatement. This is one that I didn’t really have circled on the schedule as being that much of a challenge, but that was before the recent shake-up of the team. I don’t think anyone knows how the Cardinals are going to respond after losing one of their teammates for the season and if they will have a hangover from the big loss Saturday. Our guys enter the New Years Eve AAC opener with a lot of question marks. They do match-up very well with this UCF group and should have the talent to edge them out early, but who knows. I will be cheering them on as hard as I can and hope they can exact revenge for that football loss earlier this year. Go Cards!

Cardinal Basketball Heads Into AAC Conference Play

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The non conference games are over and we now head into the meat of the basketball schedule known as conference play. Just like with the football schedule this season the basketball schedule is suffering from the transitional year and is a little on the soft side. A soft basketball schedule is something that we haven’t seen in a long time and while I will miss some of those Big East battles I’m looking forward to some of these AAC games.
This years conference games will feature old Metro, CUSA and Big East foes. Memphis, UCONN, and Cincy games stand out the most to me, but you also can’t count out those games against Southern Methodist.

Coach Pitino: “I certainly don’t enjoy the transitional part of our conference affiliation, but this is the best scenario possible”

The Cards will renew a conference rivalry that historically is considered to be one of the better hardwood feuds in NCAA basketball when they face off against Memphis this season. The Tigers could pose the biggest threat to Louisville for the AAC title and if last season’s meeting was any indication, this year’s meetings will be fun to watch as Josh Pastner should have his best team in his five seasons as head coach. Memphis returns a perimeter game that can compete with any team in the country. Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford.

After a year of sitting out of post season play UCONN will be one of the hungriest teams in college basketball this season. Coach Kevin Ollie did an excellent job keeping his team playing hard last year and this season the backcourt is experienced on both sides of the ball. Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun all can pressure the ball, are competitive, play with confidence and have the ability to score. These guys will be a dark horse contender in the AAC.

It is always a battle when the Cardinals face off against the Bearcats and that won’t change this season as Coach Mick Cronin will bring one of the most physical and athletic teams into the AAC. It will be an experienced and established UC team lead by Sean Kilpatrick and a great supporting cast of characters including highly sought-after freshman Jermaine Lawrence, who is versatile, and athletic. Titus Rubles, Shaquille Thomas, David Nyarsuk and Justin Jackson can all protect the rim and rebound. These guys could very much be a top contender for the AAC this year and will be tough competition for our Cards.

Last but certainly not least is Southern Methodist. They may not Jump out to everyone as a respectable opponent or national contender but boy are they ever. Larry Brown is a helluva coach and he has assembled a roster that can compete with any team in the American and the country. They return all five starters, had three transfers sitting out and signed one of the best shooting guards in the country in McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier. This is one of those teams that can come out of nowhere this season and be the surprise of the college basketball season. This may turn out to be one of Louisville’s toughest opponents of the season.

While it doesn’t appear to be the grueling slate of seasons past this is not as bad as most think it is. Our defending National Champion Cardinals will have their hands full once again and the conference part of the schedule will turn out some instant classics just you wait and see.

Cardinal Basketball Moves On Without Chane

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Well by now the news has spread across the college basketball landscape that Chane Behanan has been let go by the Louisville program today. His problems on and off the court have always been very well documented. Chane grew up in the rough inner city of Cincinnati and was able to avoid any kind of real trouble while living there, but still was surrounded by drugs, gangs and other dysfunction. Most thought that when Chane got away from that environment and got with a Coach that would challenge him to be better that he would flourish. Coach Pitino has pushed back and has always challenged Chane to overcome his defense mechanisms learned through that early dysfunction. Today Coach Pitino said that he had violated a “University Policy” and it is unknown at this time what that might be.

I don’t think Chane has lost his way. He is just a kid that doesn’t have any healthy coping skills, problem solving skills or decision making ability. I know that most wouldn’t consider a 21 year old guy a kid but growing up with as much dysfunction that Chane did it slows the developmental stage drastically. I have heard and seen this comment many times over the last few months “you can take the kid out of Cincy, but you can’t take the Cincy out of the kid” and while not the best way to describe this ordeal with Behanan it is a valid point. It is very difficult to erase years of damage created by rough environments. It takes a person to decide that they want to change their past and create a better future for themselves. Chane has said many times that he wants to be the one person in his family that does succeed now he just has to buckle down and make that change. Word is that several schools have already called to acquire the services of Behanan. I would like to see him move up to Minnesota with the younger Pitino. There isn’t much to do to get in trouble there and it snows about 8 months out of the year. Can’t think of a better place for him to go to figure out his life. I will say a extra prayer for Chane tonight and I will always appreciate what he did here.

Where does the Louisville Basketball team go from here? We have seen Coach Pitino work his magic under these circumstances many times in the past and he flourishes in it. He ran a small line-up that took Providence to the Final Four and he has had to work with small line-ups at Louisville. He took Louisville to the Final Four with that 2005 group and didn’t have a huge front-court. He used Kyle Kuric at the Power Forward spot 3 years ago. Looks like small ball will make it’s way to Louisville once again. The Cardinals perimeter pieces give them the ability to go small and use Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear as a stretch 4. I can’t wait to see how this all works out and am still very optimistic about how this season could end. We still have the shooters and the players to make this work. Its Gut Check time for our Cardinals… Let’s all make sure we stay behind them and give them the support they will need to overcome this recent shake up. GO CARDS!…

Cards Football Cures Basketball Blues

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Normally after a Cardinal loss in basketball to arch rival Kentucky I would mope around for several days afterwards in a funk. And while I am still disappointed the football teams Russell Athletic Bowl victory really did help wash the blues away. Not long after the final buzzer of the basketball game yesterday was the kickoff for the Russell Athletic Bowl. A game that featured future conference rivals and a game that Louisville football would completely dominate from start to finish. The Cards manhandled Miami beating them 36-9. Our Cards win their second straight bowl game for its second 12-win season and send a message to the ACC that they are coming to play.

Much like the big hit Teddy took against Florida last year in the Sugar Bowl the sack he took in the end-zone last night ignited a fire in this Louisville group that Miami was unable to put out. In what will likely be his final game as a Cardinal Teddy was brilliant. He threw for a career-high 447 yards and scored four touchdowns. He played toss and catch all night long with Parker (142 yards with 1 TD), Copeland (90 yards) and company throwing on the run, into double coverage, completing passes to 10 different receivers in all. He also eluded would-be tacklers and ran for 24 yards and a TD, too. Bridgewater also set the school single-season record for touchdown passes with 31 and was easily the best player on the field. He also made his case that he is the best college football player this season. After watching that young man last night it is unbelievable that he wasn’t even invited to the Heisman ceremonies and it really puts that award and the politics behind it in perspective. In all the Cardinal offense racked up 554 yards in a performance for the ages. Kudos to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson for quieting his critics in this game and really the final two games of this season.

And what about that Louisville defense? A group that has brought it ever time they have taken the field this season did it again last night holding the Canes to 174 yards of total offense and a whopping 14 yards rushing. They also held Miami to 0-11 on third down conversions. Those guys were flying all over the field and they had 52 tackles total with Preston Brown leading the way with 7, followed by Pryor with 6 and Burgess with 4. This group had four sacks on the evening with one of the nations sacks leaders Marcus Smith leading the way with 2. Louisville allowed Miami to only 9 points and just 12.2 points per game in 2013, good for 3rd Best in school history. They also didn’t allow one first quarter touchdown all season. Just as impressive Teddy was all season for the offense this defensive group for the Cardinals was equally impressive. One of the best I’ve ever watched since being a fan.

Our Cards rode out of this season in the Miami sunset proving to the college football world for the second straight season that they have arrived on the national scene. They will now get the opportunity to prove they can compete on a weekly basis with the best in the country as they will join the ACC next season. If last night was the final time we get to see Teddy in that Cardinal uniform then he also went out in fitting fashion. I know I really appreciate all he did and this team did this year and appreciate them helping me get over the blues from that basketball loss yesterday. I’m already looking forward to going out and watching spring practice next year and can’t wait for the next football season to begin. Go Cards!

Cards Lose Battle But Still In The Fight

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(Photo Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

Yesterday the 46th chapter of the Battle of the Bluegrass was written and for the 31st time it was Kentucky who walked away with the 73-66 win. Our Cardinals are now 11-2 and will more than likely drop a few spots in the national rankings, although they did remain in the #1 spot in the Kenpom rankings despite the loss.

The stage was set yesterday for what was billed as one of the biggest games in this series as it featured both the 2012 and 2013 College Basketball National Champions. It was a pretty competitive game throughout but I think the script went a different way than what most of us expected. Kentucky was supposed to be the team that didn’t know who they were yet, they were supposed to be the team that lost focus down the stretch especially with their star player in the locker room. But that’s not what happen. It was our Cardinals that started taking bad shots, making bad decisions, and struggled to play as a team. It was the Cardinals that looked dysfunctional.

The Cardinal front-court was nonexistent yesterday afternoon and Montrezl and Chane combined for a 2 of 5 shooting effort. But more disturbing to me is that these guys really weren’t given the chance to get involved. 44 of the 58 field goals attempted by the Cards in yesterday’s game came from three guys Chris, Russ and Luke. You just aren’t going to win many games on the big stage and against good competition when you have three guys taking 75% of the shots, especially when one of those guys (Luke) goes 2-of-8 from the arc and 3-of-11 from the floor. Coming into this game I mentioned that Kentucky was ranked 200th in assist and weren’t passing the ball enough, but it was the Cardinals who fit that script on Saturday.

Louisville has got to get things figured out on the boards as well. It has been an area for concern all season long. Kentucky pulled down 17 offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance points yesterday and out-rebounded the Cards 44 to 36 on the day. Chane did a decent job on the glass grabbing 7 boards, but Montrezl and Mango only combined for 7 on the day. And when you allow any team to have that many second chance opportunities it’s not going to work out in your favor very often.

There were some positives from yesterday. I really liked how Rozier looked when he came into the game and would really like to see him get more time at the point guard position. He ran the offense yesterday in that hostile environment better than anyone. And Chris really stepped it up offensively on the big stage, just think he should have been more team oriented at times. Mango had 4 of the teams 5 blocks yesterday and that was really good to see. Our bench also did a good job out scoring Kentucky’s 14 to 8. Oh yea and Russ Smith did have the play of the game when he put Randle in a poster. That was fun to watch.

I’m still very confident in how this season will turn out and I think this early loss in December will give this team a wake up call. Where Calipari relies more on talent, Pitino has utilized development and his coaching ability to make Louisville successful. He will figure out how to best use the pieces on this team and the team will figure out how to use what they have to their advantage. We have got the nucleus for another Championship now the guys just have to keep fighting to find a way to make it all work together. I’m very disappointed in that loss yesterday and I did take it very hard, but the college basketball season is not a sprint it’s a marathon. We got a long way to go until March.

Coach Pitino after UK Loss:

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The Beak’s Red Vs Blue Movie Review:

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Last night I was given the opportunity to be in Lexington for the premiere of the movie RedVBlue. I was able to bring my brother and his sons to the premiere as well. In our family it truly is Red vs Blue. This movie did a great job at explaining the history of the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry and really evoked the emotions of the crowd in attendance. The movie had drama, comedy, and a touch of suspense.

I really liked the guys from the Louisville Barber Shops and thought they really helped this documentary maintain a lighter side. Those guys were comedic gold. All of the folks chosen to represent both sides of the Rivalry did a great job. If someone watched this film that had no prior knowledge of what this crazy hoops hysteria was all about they would have walked out knowing exactly what basketball means to the state of Kentucky. And the characters chosen are a big reason why.

The makers of this documentary had a very tough job in my opinion. They had to make this film so that it would appeal to both sides and that was a very thin line to walk, especially when one side got off to a slower start in college basketball and considering the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry didn’t really take off until 1983. It is my opinion that these guys nailed it. Instead of creating anymore animosity this film does a great job of creating a great sense of pride just to be a part of such a wonderful rivalry and I walked away feeling like Louisville had just as much to do with that as Kentucky did. In the closing of the film the message was loud and clear… We may choose to cheer for one side or the other but the bottom line is that we are all Kentuckians and we are the College Basketball capital of the world..

I give this film 5 Beaks
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No Cardinals or Wildcats were harmed during the filming of this documentary.

Cardinal’s Beak Interview With A Louisville Legend

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The next two days are going to be an exciting time if you are a sports fan in the state of Kentucky and especially if you are a Cardinal Fan. Tonight will be the premier of the RedVBlue movie documenting one of the best rivalries in college basketball between Louisville and Kentucky. Then on Saturday the teams will face each other for the 46th time. Oh yea and there’s also the Russell Athletic Bowl where our Cardinal Football team will play the Miami Hurricanes.

This morning I had the chance to interview one of my favorite Louisville players of all times and a Cardinal legend James “Boo” Brewer. He was a star on the basketball team at the University of Louisville from 1988-1993. There he held the record for the most 3-point shots made in a game for 11 years and the most steals in a game for 3 years. He won Metro Tournament awards for the best free-throw shooter and best 3 point shooter for 2 consecutive years. He went on to play professional basketball in Europe for 14 years.
He has been inducted into the Dawahare’s Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
I got a chance to ask him some questions about the big weekend and the part he played in the RedVBlue movie. Here is the full version of the Q&A I had with “Boo”.

The Beak Football Review & Bowl Game Preview

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The 2013-14 Cardinal Football season was one of the most anticipated seasons that I have been involved with. A year of transition that brought high hopes of another BCS Title game and one that some thought could land the Cardinals into the National Title game. Although those things didn’t happen Cardinal fans still had much to cheer for and cheer they did. All seven home games this season were sold out. Fans poured into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to watch Teddy throw for over 3500 yards and 28 touchdowns in his last season as a Cardinal and got to see a defense that was one of the best in the country. Once again it’s been a great ride since last spring.

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The 9th ranked Louisville Cardinals and their lofty expectations welcomed the Ohio Bobcats to town to kick things off for the 2013 season. Louisville fans were out in full force for what may have been the biggest Card March in school history. The atmosphere that day in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium had the feel of a big time program and the Cardinals would perform as such. On this day Ohio learned that big time football had arrived in Louisville. Right out of that gate Teddy was 9 for 9 on his first two drives for 122 yards, and hooked up with Damian Copeland for two 2 touchdowns. The onslaught would continue as Teddy would throw for four touchdowns in the first half. He would finish with five on the day. The key was his ability to connect on 3rd downs as he was 8 for 8 with 7 first downs and two touchdowns on third down. It was toss and catch all day long with Copeland, Parker, Clark, De La Cruz, and Christian against the Ohio D. Teddy said he felt “like a kid in a candy store” with all the weapons. Cards won 49-7.

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The atmosphere in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was awesome as just over 53,000 fans showed up for the 12:00pm kickoff. It was the 5th largest crowd ever to watch a game. Pretty impressive numbers considering that it was against a FCS opponent. The now ranked 7th ranked Cardinals made took care of business against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 44-7. They built a huge 37-0 lead behind the play quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who was 23-32 for 397 yards and 4 TD’s. Bridgewater hooked up with DeVante Parker 5 times for 134 yards and 2 TDs and was led in rushing by Senorise Perry who had an average day with only 36 yards, but blocked well and reached the end zone himself. On Defense, the Cardinals dominated up front from the beginning and would have pitched the shutout if not for letting their reserves get some playing time late in the game. The Cardinals finished with 475 yards of offense to Eastern Kentucky’s 206.

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Heading into the game against Kentucky Louisville fans had high hopes for how the Cardinals would perform in the Governor’s Cup. And although it was a hard fought victory some came away feeling like this team had some work to do. Louisville entered this contest after moving to 2-0 with a convincing win over in-state EKU. The Cardinals high offense racked up 492 yards and was once again led by the play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who threw for 250 yards and a TD. It was his lowest statistical outing of the early season. Senorise Perry added 9 yards a carry on his way to 100 yards and two TD’s and DeVante Parker managed a TD despite a low yardage day. It was the strong play of the Louisville defense that shined brightest on this day holding Kentucky to a season low in points and just 376 yards of total offense. The Louisville defense now ranked 4th in the nation in points allowed at 9.0 per game. The Cards keep the Governor’s Cup for the third consecutive year and this game now moves to Thanksgiving Day weekend.

 photo 2845werwqrer_zps670b421f.jpg-9/21/13 Louisville vs. FIU
Fresh off another impressive win, the undefeated, 7th ranked Louisville Cardinals played host to the 0-3 Florida International Panthers. This game had over by halftime written all over it, and it played out like that as the Cards demolished Florida International 72-0. It was so bad that the FIU coaching staff asked for the running clock rule, but did deny it later. Bridgewater led the way throwing for 212 yards and 4 TD’s with no picks. He connected with DeVante Parker twice in the first half as the Cardinals built a 38-0 lead at the break. The Louisville defense was dominant as well, locking down FIU to an eye popping 30 total yards. FIU was pretty much three and out all game long and were only able to muster 3 yards on the ground. The Cardinals defense now ranks 1st in the country at 6.8 points per game for opponents. Bridgewater and the high octane offense ranks 8th with a 48 ppg average.

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The 4-0 and 7th ranked Louisville Cardinals headed to Philadelphia for their first AAC match-up and took care of business in easy fashion with a 30-7 win. The Cardinals went to work early as Teddy Bridgewater threw to Gerald Christian for a TD. The Louisville defense took over from there as the unit forced a first half turnover and routinely gave the offense solid field position on their way to a 24-0 lead at the half. The Owls finished with just 255 total yards of offense and most gained during the garbage time when the game was out of reach. Bridgewater continued his strong play with 348 yards and 2 TDs on the day with no picks. With the Owls focusing their attention on DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers led the Cardinals in receiving with 77 yards and a TD on 5 catches. The Cardinals added 177 yards on the ground by committee with Dominique Brown’s 76 yards leading the way. With the win, the Cardinals now boast a nation’s best scoring defense 6.8 ppg and the 12th ranked scoring offense at 44.4 ppg.

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This series came to an end on this night and the Cards went out on top winning their 4th straight over the Knights 24-10. The Cardinals were a little sluggish initially before Teddy Bridgewater connected with De La Cruz for a 34 yard TD and Senorise Perry punched one in to give Louisville a commanding 17-7 halftime lead. That is the entire cushion the top ranked Louisville scoring defense would need. Routine pressure and strong coverage by the Cardinals DB’s resulted in 4 Gary Nova interceptions and plenty of good field position for Teddy Bridgewater and company. Teddy finished the game with 310 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception and Senorise Perry had a game high 104 yards on the ground with a touchdown as well. The end of this series for the foreseeable future was kind of bittersweet as there were many great moments.

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What was supposed to be and had been up until this game a dream season for the Louisville football program became a Knightmare on Floyd Street as the Cardinals would lose to Central Florida 38-35. Louisville was favored in this contest and looked as though they were going to run away with the game as they built a 28-7 lead early before UCF turned on the gas for a late rally. Louisville gave up 21 points in the final 4:50 of the 3rd quarter as the Knights took advantage of turnovers and rode Storm Johnson to tie the score. A Dominique Brown run made it 35-31 Louisville before the knights marched down the field and scored on a 2 yard pass to win it with :23 remaining. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns with no picks but the Cardinals were undone by two costly fumbles. Eli Rogers led all receivers with 10 catches and 95 yards and a touchdown. With this loss, Louisville remained in the hunt for the conference title but now would be avid fans of UCF’s opponents week in and week out moving forward.

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The now 6-1 Cardinals still feeling the effects from a disappointing loss looked to rebound as they traveled to South Beach for this one. They would do so in a big way beating the Bulls 34-3. Louisville broke this one open early and never looked back as Teddy Bridgewater connected with Damian Copeland and Gerald Christian before the half on long touchdowns. Bridgewater finished the night with 344 yards, 3 td’s and no picks. Dominique Brown led all rushers with 126 yards on the ground and the Cardinals offense racked up 483 total yards while smothering South Florida to just 133 total yards for the contest. It was during this game that the Louisville offense started to look slightly different than it had in the early part of the season. It would become more of a methodical approach instead of a wide open one.

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The Cardinals now ranked 19th in the country would travel to face a winless Continue reading

Cards Surf Past FIU

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(photo Steve Mitchell USA Today Sports)

In their first true road game of the season the Cardinals took care of business in impressive fashion beating FIU 85-56 down in Miami. With this win our Cards move to 11-1 on the season and have now won six straight. This win also puts Rick Pitino in a tie with legendary coach Denny Crum. Both now have 675 career wins.

The Cardinals put together another complete game in this one with Russ Smith leading the way with 18 points followed by Wayne Blackshear with 13 and Montrezl had 10 points with 5 boards. The Cardinals took care of the ball only turning it over 10 times on the day with just 2 in the second half. The Cardinals also shot the ball very well today from behind the arc. They shot 13-24 54.2% from 3 point range. Russ made 4, Wayne had 3, Rozier had 2. Luke, Tim, Anton, and Chris all had 1 each. Most impressive thing to me today was how this Louisville team moved and shared the basketball. They were making those extra passes and were getting those good looks. The result was a high shot percentage and 19 assist on 26 made baskets.

This FIU team is ranked in the top 25 in the nation in rebounding and today they out rebounded our Cards 39-32. Still a good effort by our guys. Terry Rozier who came into this game with 16 boards in the last two didn’t have one on this day. They did a good job of getting a body on him. Was good to see another freshman Anton Gill log some minutes in this win. He even got up some shots. I do think its possible that he will be a decent guy to bring in off the bench down the road.

Rick Pitino: “I thought our defense was good at the beach. I thought it was bad at the palm trees.”

One of the most interesting things about this game was the ocean themed basketball court that FIU plays on. Today it looked like our Cardinals were on a ocean cruise as they took care of their business and this one was never in any doubt. It really says a lot about this group to go on the road in a hostile environment and pull out a 30 point win. Every game this team takes that next step forward and does one or two things better. Today it was ball movement that then resulted into solid shooting. All eyes now turn to the next one… It’s Louisville vs Kentucky GO CARDS!

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The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Panthers

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The Cardinals have hit the road and won’t play another home game for several weeks. They are currently in Miami and will play the FIU Panthers on Saturday . Tip-off is set for 6:07 p.m. and the game will be televised on FOX Sports 1. The Cardinals lead this series 2-0 and won 79 to 55 last December when the teams played. Louisville has won five straight heading into the game Saturday. It will be the highest ranked team that FIU has ever hosted and the only defending national champion.

This FIU basketball team had a pretty rough off season losing Richard Pitino to Minnesota and also had several transfers after finding out that they would be getting a post season ban this year due to academic issues. They did hire another good coach in Anthony Evans and despite losing three starters and seven letter-winners from last year’s team they do return 46.5 percent of their scoring from the 2012-2013 campaign.

FIU comes into Saturday’s game averaging 73.7 points-per-game, while shooting 46.4% from the floor and 34.6% from 3-point range. The Panthers are converting 68% of its attempts from the free-throw line. Defensively, FIU is allowing 65.5 points-per-game as the opposition is shooting 39.1% from the floor. The Panthers are out-rebounding their opponents 415-335 with a rebounding margin of +8 averaging 41.5 boards-per-contest. FIU’s 493 total rebounds currently 5th in the nation.

Leading the Panthers offensively is SR Tymell Murphy (16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds), SR Rakeem Buckles (14.7 points, 10.5 rebounds), JR Dennis Mavin (10 points, 4 rebounds) and SR Raymond Taylor (12.2 points, 2.7 rebounds). Both Murphy and Buckles have combined for 45 total blocks – the most by any duo in C-USA this season and both are very good rebounding and offensive threats. Mavin enters Saturday’s game as the team’s leader in steals with 21 and is averaging 1.8 steals-per-game. Taylor a transfer from FAU was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection and posted a top-35 assist rate. He is averaging a impressive 6.2 a game this season.
Other contributors are SOPH Jerome Frink (9.6 points, 5.2 rebounds) who’s big on the offensive boards, Seven-foot SR Ivan Jurkovic who was starting at the end of last season, but the Croatian has played reserve minutes this year, and JR guard Marco Porcher Jimenez (7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds) has proved to be a reasonable 3-point threat at 35%.

Florida International

Kenpom Ranks
Overall – #215
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-104.6 ranks 193rd
Offensive Adjustment Efficiency
-101.1 ranks 222nd

I would be lying if I said that this game didn’t loom in my mind a little. This FIU team is very athletic and their hustle stats are off the charts. This is one of the top rebounding groups in the nation. The game Saturday is literally going to be their NCAA. They don’t get a chance for post season play so this is it for them. They are also throwing out all of the stops as the game is a white out. That little gym where the Panthers are 210-170 all-time, had 17 winning seasons including a perfect 13-0 mark during the 1992-93 campaign will be as hostile as the Cardinals will see this season. Coach Pitino wanted a good road test before Kentucky and he will get it in this game. Our guys have been trending upwards and Saturday they will have every facet of their game taken to task. I really feel like this one will be close for a bit, but do think the Cards overall talent at every position will win out in the end. Toughest challenge yet for our team other than UNC. Will be exciting…. Go Cards!