While No. 2 Louisville hasn’t played the toughest schedule so far, it certainly has looked the part of a national championship contender, particularly when it comes to offensive efficiency.
The Cardinals enter their Wednesday night nonconference home game against South Carolina Upstate canning an NCAA-best 56.6 percent from the field, along with 44.3 percent from the 3-point arc and 74.3 percent at the foul line. They are averaging 85.8 points per game and drawing assists on just over 56 percent of their field goals.
But coach Chris Mack knows they won’t keep making nearly 57 percent of their shots once they start playing Atlantic Coast Conference games, so his point of emphasis during practice is on things that can help them win when the ball won’t drop.
“We go to the practice gym and figure out where we fell short,” Mack said Sunday after the Cardinals’ 87-58 rout of North Carolina Central. “I think our younger guys have to get a little tougher. On the defensive end, there were a lot of 50-50 balls, and they have to get more disciplined.
“We’re reaching in, we’re going for shot fakes, we’re fouling jump shooters. I’m specifically talking about the young guys. Our older guys aren’t perfect, but I think our younger guys are going to be put in situations where they’re coming off the bench and maybe we’re at a high-level game where we’re up four, and they have to go to the bench up eight and not down two because of these magnified errors.”
Nevertheless, Louisville (4-0) has been solid on defense, limiting opponents to 35.7 percent shooting from the field and 30.1 percent on 3-point attempts. The Cardinals have been decent on the boards with a plus-5.3 margin per game, although they have been lax on occasion in sealing off the defensive glass.
Five Cardinals are scoring in double figures, led by 6-foot-7 forward Jordan Nwora at 20.5 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, USC Upstate (1-4) has struggled to score during a slow start. The Spartans absorbed a 76-45 defeat Monday night at Akron, sinking only 18 of 67 shots from the field (26.9 percent) and placing no one in double figures.
USC Upstate has made just 38.7 percent from the floor and averaged only 64.8 points per game. It’s been even worse from the 3-point arc, converting just 30 of 117 attempts (25.6 percent). Sophomore guard Everette Hammond is its only double-figure scorer at 11.8 ppg, but he is converting only 37.3 percent from the field.
The schedule has done the Spartans no favors. This is the last game of a four-game trip that also took them to unbeaten Virginia Tech, which is getting votes in the Associated Press Top 25.
“We’re getting better, and I like what we’re doing,” Upstate coach Dave Dickerson said after the loss to the Hokies on Nov. 13. “This is a tough road trip for us.”
–Field Level Media