Rick Pitino said Louisville will have to improve its three-point defense to win at Seton Hall Wednesday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Playing on the road in the Big East Conference was hardly a joy for the University of Louisville basketball team last season.
They lost their final two road games (Syracuse and Cincinnati) and finished 5-4 away from the KFC Yum! Center.
One spot where Louisville did win was Seton Hall – and Rick Pitino's team returns to Newark, N.J. for a game against the Pirates Wednesday night. Get ready for a festival of three-point shots. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was around Pitino when his father, Ralph, was an assistant coach during the Pitino Bombino years at Kentucky.
There's plenty of bombino in this young Seton Hall team, which does not start a senior. Three Pirates are making at least 40 percent of their three-point shots -- as high-volume three-point shooters. Guard Fuquan Edwin has made half of his 64 attempts while Louisville native Aaron Cosby has drilled 30 of 74. And Louisville will be playing without forward Chane Behanan, who is missing the trip with a sprained ankle.
"Seton Hall shoots a lot of threes from NBA range, so it's not expected," Pitino said. "They move the ball well, they make the extra pass, they dribble penetrate, they have a terrific low post player in (Eugene) Teague, who can give anybody problems at 6-9, 295 pounds.
"So you've got to do something about him on the interior. We've got to defend the threes, and we haven't done a good job of that. We've got to stop the interior play of Teague, and without Chane (Behanan) that's going to be a difficult assignment."
And remember: Playing at Seton Hall has hardly been fun, fun, fun for the Cards. They're only 1-2 at the Prudential Center.
I'll always remember the game from five seasons ago when the Pirates roared past the Cards for a 92-82 upset victory. Here is what was unforgettable:
Pitino was so annoyed with the way his team played defense that after he and his players finished their post-game interviews he ordered the U of L video coordinators to set up the equipment in the locker room. Then he told his players to take off their jackets. It was going to be awhile.
And it was awhile – more than 30 minutes. The players watched every defensive breakdown in detail.
Chances of that happening again Wednesday night?
Not very substantial.
Looking at Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings, Louisville figures to be favored by about 11 points. Ken Pomeroy likes the Cards 73-61 with an 87 percent win probability.
Home court has not been a huge advantage in the opening days of Big East play. Home teams have only won 8 of 15 games – and six teams have already lost at home (Cincinnati twice)
Seton Hall is not one of those teams. The Pirates are 8-0 at home.
Seton Hall has excelled in close games, winning four of six decided by five points or less (or in overtime).
As Pitino said in his press conference Tuesday, Willard's team is one of the most dangerous three-point shooting teams in the league. Seton Hall ranks first in the Big East – and 13th in the nation -- making nearly nine three-point shots per game. Kentucky (10) and Samford (9) are the only teams to make at least nine threes against the Cardinals this season.
The Pirates are also second in the league – and 31st in the nation – in three-point field goal percentage. They're making an impressive 38.2 percent. What's U of L's defensive number from the three-point line? A solid 30.6 percent.
So here is your ball game – Louisville's ability to crowd Fuqua, Cosby and even forward Brandon Mobley (15 of 29) on the three-point line.
Louisville will have to defend better than it has defended in recent games. Ask Pitino.
"I just think that everybody has blemishes and ours is defense," Pitino said. "We played very poor defense in the second half against Kentucky, we played very poor defense in the early part of Providence, so it's something we have to work at.
"I think Gorgui (Dieng, the Cards' center) is not the defensive player he was and that's missing, but he has a right to that because he's just coming back from injury. I think Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) are not doing a good enough job off the ball, especially in the zone."