After concluding a stretch of five games in eight days, Louisville hopes an extended layoff will help energize it for its first meeting with Miami of Ohio in over 12 years on Saturday.
The contests opens a stretch of just three games in three weeks for No. 12 Louisville (4-1) after it capped off a difficult season-opening stretch of five games in a seven-day span with a 64-53 win last Saturday over Old Dominion in the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Cardinals were relegated to the consolation game one day after a 78-76 loss to Brigham Young.
“It was real difficult on our guys, and it’s my fault for scheduling it,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, who saw his Cardinals win 68-48 against UNLV two days before playing in Las Vegas. “I scheduled too many games. They were gasping for air, but they dug in there. They were really fatigued. We shouldn’t put them through this.”
Earl Clark emerged through the difficult stretch with team high averages of 14.8 points and 12.0 rebounds. The sophomore swingman grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds and added 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting against the Monarchs.
Clark’s strong start has helped soften the blow with starting forwards David Padgett and Juan Palacios injured. Padgett, a senior, is likely out for the season with a broken right kneecap suffered in a win over Jackson State on Nov. 18, while Palacios is on target to return from a knee injury in the middle of December.
Derrick Caracter is expected to be back in the lineup after getting 13 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench against ODU as Terrance Farley got the starting nod due to the grueling schedule. The sophomore forward, who had a career-high 24 points against BYU, is averaging 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds after getting 8.1 and 3.9, respectively, last season.
The game will mark a stark contrast in styles. While the Cardinals like to run, the RedHawks (3-2) are a deliberate halfcourt team offensively. Miami’s precision and patience on offense worries Pitino, who fears his young team may struggle trying to contain the RedHawks in those final seconds of a possession.
“This team, they’ll wait till about 30, 32 seconds, take down the clock and then eventually, they’ll get their shot up,” Cardinals freshman Preston Knowles said.
Miami is looking to rebound from Wednesday’s 63-62 defeat to Dayton in which it squandered a 15-point halftime lead, capped by a 3-pointer from the Flyers’ Brian Roberts with five seconds to play. The defeat—the RedHawks’ second in three games—also wasted a career-best 36-point effort from swingman Michael Bramos, who went 9-for-15 from 3-point range.
“The loss hurts too much as this point,” said Bramos, who missed a free throw with 13 seconds left that gave Miami a 62-60 lead. “I’d rather have not hit a three and won, then to do what I did. If we would have won, it would have been a lot better.”
Bramos, who is averaging 24.2 points, has posted consecutive 30-point performances. The junior had 30 in a 67-60 win over Mississippi State on Sunday, but has averaged only 13.7 points in three lifetime games against ranked opponents—all losses.
Miami has lost seven straight games against Top 25 teams since a 73-67 win over then-No. 10 Boston College on Dec. 20, 2001. The RedHawks came close to upsetting then-No.10 Oregon in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, but lost 58-56.
The Cardinals have won both all-time meetings with the RedHawks, including an 81-65 victory on Nov. 22, 1985.