Later today, Canes Hoops will be on the road for the first time in ACC play as they meet the Louisville Cardinals in the KFC Yum! Center. In the Canes last contest, they dropped their ACC opener to NC State 87-82, as they were unable to withstand a late comeback by the Wolfpack. Last Thursday’s loss not only revealed all of the Canes shortcomings, but also illuminated the potential for Coach Larranaga’s squad. Louisville will not be a pushover, however, so Miami will still need to bring their best to come away with their first ACC win.
Louisville is competing in its first season under new head coach Chris Mack, and brings a 9-4 nonconference record into their ACC opener. While the Canes also had 4 losses over their nonconference schedule, the Cardinals losses came against tougher competition (#5 Tennessee, Marquette, Indiana and #16 Kentucky). They are led by sophomore Jordan Nwora, a 6’8” 215lb forward. Nwora is the team leader in points (17.8 points per game) and rebounds (8.4 rebounds per game). The other key contributors for the Cardinals are transfer guard Christen Cunningham (9.6 points per game, 3.2 assists per game) and forward Dwayne Sutton (9.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game).
On paper, both teams appear to be evenly matched. The Cardinals average only .6 more points per game (78.5-77.9) and allow only .4 less (68.7-69.1), however, the Miami’s opening loss showed us that they will have to overcome their lack of depth, which makes an impact on multiple facets of the game. The Canes 7-man rotation has to navigate foul-trouble and conditioning, the latter proving to be Miami’s downfall against NC State. The Canes held a late lead, but could not continue to execute on the offensive end (they scored only 8 points in the final 10 minutes) or defensive end (Louisville scored 23 points in the final 10 minutes).
It’s not all negative in Coral Gables, as the forced workload has allowed some Canes to shine. Chris Lykes put up a career-high 28 points against NC State, Ebuka Izundu recorded his 5th double-double of the season, and Zach Johnson broke the 20-point barrier from the bench in Miami’s last 2 games. As a team, Miami took care of the basketball (7 turnovers) and shot well from the floor (46% FG, 40% 3PT). On the other hand, the Canes were dominated on the boards (51-29) and struggled from the charity stripe (16 of 29 FTs).
Tip off is scheduled for 6:00pm ET and you can catch the game on ESPNU (or ESPN3.com).