Louisville had a light schedule to start the season, but playing the second of a three-game, three-day, round-robin, coach Rick Pitino gets a chance to see how his team responds to some increased pressure.
After already meeting one their coach’s challenges this weekend, the No. 11 Cardinals take on Ohio on Sunday in the second game of the Marques Maybin Classic at Freedom Hall.
Louisville (3-1) has played the fewest games of any Top 25 team, and hasn’t faced much competition, opening the season with back-to-back wins by a combined 65 points. The Cardinals, though, are still smarting from last week’s 68-54 upset at the hands of Western Kentucky.
Pitino blamed overconfidence, and after falling eight spots in the rankings this week, Louisville responded to its coach with an 83-43 win over Indiana State on Saturday in the round-robin’s opener.
“Coach tells us he’s still mad at us every day,” said guard Edgar Sosa, who was held scoreless against the Hilltoppers but had 10 points and five assists Saturday. “Western Kentucky took something away from us. We’ve got to play hard and get back to where we want to be.”
Louisville took a double-digit lead in the opening minutes on Saturday before winning by its largest margin of the season. The Cardinals held the Sycamores to 28.0 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers. They shot 48.4 percent after shooting just 26.8 percent against the Hilltoppers.
“I am real pleased,” said Pitino, who said Louisville’s last loss was because the team was too “me first”. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Earl Clark had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Terrence Williams added 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a career high-tying five steals. Louisville has won 11 straight at home by an average of 24.2 points.
“When you come off a loss, everybody is hungrier,” said Williams, who is averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds this season. “Everybody wants a steal. Everybody wants to do their job. Everybody came out pumped up.”
The Cardinals will try to build on that momentum on Sunday before closing this mini tournament Monday against Lamar.
If Louisville is feeling any fatigue Sunday, they won’t be the only ones, as Ohio (4-1) takes the floor for the third time in five days.
Ohio lost for the second time in three games Saturday, falling 76-67 to Lamar. The Bobcats shot 37.9 percent and trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half. They rallied to cut the deficit to nine late, but were unable to get any closer.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and we weren’t able to overcome a slow start this time around,” coach John Groce said. “I like the fact that we played hard until the final horn, but I’d have like to have seen us get off to a better start.”
Jerome Tillman had a career-high 25 points and six rebounds and Justin Orr scored 19. Tillman is averaging a team-best 21.2 points.
Louisville leads the all-time series against Ohio 8-3, including a 74-71 victory in the most recent meeting in 2006.