Coming off its most lopsided defeat in eight seasons, Louisville should rebound against a team which is losing at what is reaching a record level.
The fifth-ranked Cardinals, however, must improve on both ends of the floor Sunday at Freedom Hall against DePaul, which will try to avoid matching its longest skid in program history.
Louisville (18-5, 9-2 Big East) had its worst defensive performance of the season Thursday night at Notre Dame, allowing the Irish to shoot 53.8 percent in a 90-57 loss. The 33-point drubbing marked the Cardinals’ worst since a 106-72 defeat at UNC-Charlotte on Feb. 11, 2001.
“This (loss), while humiliating to us, can propel them into something good,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I’m really upset at our players. The way we practiced going into this game and the way we played tonight, our five men were just totally dominated.”
The Cardinals’ shooting woes also continued in their second loss in three games as their 39.0 percent night helped Notre Dame turn an early 13-point lead into a 30-point advantage with 8:29 remaining.
In its three February games, Louisville has shot 37.1 percent (65-of-175) and made 13-of-52 3-point attempts (25.0 percent) after shooting 43.9 percent overall and 34.2 from behind the arc in its first 20 games.
Earl Clark, the team’s leading scorer at 13.0 points per game, has shot 30.0 percent in February and averaged 9.3 points. Terrence Williams, who has battled a bruised right wrist for the past two games, has made two of his last 16 shots and scored eight points since his career-high 26 in a Feb. 2 loss to top-ranked Connecticut.
Despite their lackluster defensive performance against Notre Dame, the Cardinals remain second in Big East play in allowing 62.8 points and 40.0 percent shooting, and they will face the worst team in the conference.
DePaul (8-17, 0-12) has scored 61.0 points per game in its string of Big East defeats—ahead of only South Florida’s 60.4, and the Blue Demons also have the league’s worst shooting defense in Big East games at 48.8 percent. That has pushed them to the verge of a dubious school record of 13 consecutive losses set from Jan. 3-Feb. 21, 1996, and matched Jan. 15-March 5, 1997.
All signs point to DePaul making history as it has lost its last five games by an average of 20.4 points, including a 72-49 home defeat Tuesday night to Seton Hall.
The Blue Demons also have 13 straight defeats to ranked opponents, including seven this season. They have dropped seven of their last eight games against Top 5 foes in the last 10 seasons with the only win in that time coming Dec. 2, 2006, against No. 5 Kansas.
Despite his team’s winless league record, Will Walker has averaged 15.0 points in Big East games—better than his 12.8-point season average. Dar Tucker has been limited to 16.8 points per game in league play and leads DePaul with an 18.5-point average.
The Cardinals haven’t faced the Blue Demons at Freedom Hall since a 65-53 win on Feb. 22, 2006. They have won four straight over DePaul, including an 88-68 win last season in which Williams scored 22 points.