The University of Louisville coaching staff must have been puzzled watching tape of the Miami Hurricanes’ 86-81 victory at North Carolina State on Sunday.
The Cards have been scouting the Canes before Wednesday’s game at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables (8 p.m., ESPN2), and the UM team that beat the Wolfpack looked a whole lot different from the one that blew a 13-point second-half lead to Duke last week.
Junior center Ebuka Izundu, who was averaging 4.1 points per game, went 7 of 7 for 15 points against N.C. State. On the defensive end, Izundu came off the bench to help neutralize the Wolfpack’s 7-foot center Omer Yurtseven, which was no easy task.
Chris Lykes, UM’s speedy, 5-7 freshman point guard, started for the first time all season in place of fellow freshman Lonnie Walker IV, who had been bothered by a stiff back. Lykes sped up the tempo of UM’s offense, led the fast break, and finished with six points and five assists in 22 minutes.
The Canes’ three-point shooting, which had been a weakness (29 percent in league play), became a weapon. UM shot 52.6 percent from beyond the arc, converting 10 of 16 attempts.
Bruce Brown, looking like the Brown of old, went 3 for 3 from three-point range and scored 19 points. Anthony Lawrence made three of his four three-point shots. Walker and D.J. Vasiljevic, who has been struggling to find his shooting rhythm, had two three-pointers apiece. Vasiljevic was recruited from Australia largely because of his perimeter shooting, but has gone 5 of 26 (19.2 percent) from distance through six ACC games.
Perhaps the most glaring change in UM’s game was how well Miami players shared the ball. They had 26 assists on 34 baskets after just 10 assists in the loss to Duke and five in the loss to Clemson. UM coach Jim Larrañaga said the team’s goal is to have 16 assists per game, and the Canes had fallen short of that 10 games in a row.
With the win against N.C. State, UM improved to 14-4, and 3-3 in the ACC. It wasn’t enough to keep the Hurricanes in the AP Top 25, though, as they dropped from No. 25 to the top of the “receiving votes” list, with Louisville right behind them.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have won four games in a row heading into Wednesday’s matchup against Miami. They beat Boston College 77-69 on Sunday and raised their record to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the ACC.
The Cards’ improved defense is a big reason for the win streak. They forced Boston College into 10 turnovers and have been relentless on the perimeter. Notre Dame’s sharpshooter, Matt Farrell, went 4 of 14 from three against Louisville, and had five turnovers. Boston College standouts Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson and Jordan Chatman shot 6 of 24 from the perimeter on Sunday.
Louisville players to watch include junior forward Deng Adel (15.8 points per game), senior point guard Quentin Snider (12.8 points, 4.2 assists), junior Ray Spalding (9.3 rebounds and 11.4 points), and senior 7-foot center Anas Mahmoud, who leads the ACC in blocks (3.53). Freshmen Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams combined for 25 points against Boston College.
UM men’s basketball vs. Louisville
When: Wed. Jan. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Watsco Center, UM campus
Records: UM (14-4, 3-3 ACC), Louisville (15-4, 5-1 ACC)
TV/Radio: ESPN2, WQAM-560 AM