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Louisville’s struggles on Saturday the result missing key players

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If you didn’t watch No. 3 Louisville’s 70-48 win over the College of Charleston on Saturday afternoon, if you simply took at gander at the box score after getting your fill of college football, you would think that the short-handed Cardinals made short work of the Cougars.

Hey, they won by 22 points, right? Russ Smith had 21 points and five assists. Chris jones went for 12 points, six boards, five assists, two steals and zero turnovers. They forced 21 turnovers, committed just three, and obliterated the Cougars on the offensive glass.

About par for the course.

But that wasn’t the case at all.

In fact, for about the first 35 minutes of the game, it looked like Charleston was going to take this thing down to the wire. They trailed 29-21 at the break and, despite Louisville making a couple of surges in the second half, were down just 48-45 with seven minutes left in the game. I watched it, and I’ll be honest: I came away much more impressed with Charleston than I did with Louisville. That’s not to say that I think the Cougars are a better team, but given the situation — the No. 3 team in the country playing at home on the day they receive their national title rings — I don’t think Doug Wojcik can in anyway be disappointed with his team’s effort.

Here’s the catch, however: Louisville is a long way from being whole right now. Chane Behanan may be back with the team, but he’s still suspended. He didn’t play Saturday. He sat the bench in street clothes. Luke Hancock was sidelined as well, dealing with an achilles injury that may keep him out for a few games. Throw in the fact that Wayne Blackshear started the game 0-for-11 from the floor, and the issue for the Cardinals is evident.

On Saturday, they were a one-dimensional team.

There was no low-post scoring presence with Behanan out. As good as Harrell is, he’s more of an effort guy, an athlete that will score in transition and will get dunks off of rim runs and offensive rebounds. He’s not a guy that you dump the ball into on the block and expect a bucket from, especially not when he’s going up against a Charleston frontline that can match up with his size.

With Hancock sidelined and Blackshear struggling, there was no perimeter shooting from this group, either. The result? When Louisville was forced into a half court set, the only way they were able to generate offense was through the ability of Jones and Smith to create off the bounce. They became a team that relied almost entirely on high-ball screens, and while that’s usually a major part of the Louisville offense, it becomes much more effecting when a defense as to be concerned about jump-shooters or a big man ducking-in.

It’s not a coincidence that when Blackshear finally got into a rhythm late in the second half, Louisville when on a 22-3 run to close out the game.

So yes, this was a concerning performance by the Cardinals.

But the concerns should be addressed once this group gets to full strength.

Hopefully, for Cardinal fans, that will happen by the time they have to face off with North Carolina in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

WATCH LIVE: Hofstra travels to Delaware on NBCSN

James Madison forward Yohanny Dalembert (40) prepares to shoot against Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys, behind, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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Hofstra tries to keep pace with the conference’s elite as they travel to Delaware on Saturday afternoon. You can watch this CAA battle live on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. EST.

The Pride (17-8, 9-4) are currently two games behind conference leader UNC-Wilmington and they’re trying to make a run to close out the season. Senior guard Juan’ya Green leads the Pride in points (17.7 ppg), assists (7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and he’s surrounded by a dangerous supporting cast.

Delaware (6-18, 1-12) had lost 15 consecutive games before beating Drexel in their last game. The Blue Hens have struggled in CAA play but Kory Holden (17.5 ppg, 4 apg) will try to help lead the upset.

These two teams met on Dec. 31 with Hofstra winning that one, 90-80, at home.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

Michigan gets Caris LeVert back in a win over No. 18 Purdue

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) tries to steal the ball from Michigan guard Caris LeVert (23) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
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Zak Irvin scored 22 points and Michigan’s outmanned front line held Purdue’s redwoods to just seven offensive boards, six second chance points and just 22 points in the paint as the Wolverines landed a critical, 61-56, win over the No. 18 Boilermakers.

Depending on who you listen to, Michigan entered the day, at worst, on the bubble and at best, in headed for the 8-9 game.

And they picked up a top 25 win.

So yes, this win was big for them moving forward.

But more important than the win itself was that Wolverine fans got a glimpse of all-american guard Caris LeVert. He played just 11 points and didn’t return in the second half, he didn’t score and he missed the only shot that he took, but LeVert took the court for the first time since Dec. 30th. That day, LeVert rolled his left ankle and most likely reinjured a foot that had had a broken bone surgically repaired twice in the last 20 months. Michigan never confirmed what the actual injury was and never gave a timetable for when he would be back in the lineup, which is what made his brief appearance so important.

LeVert isn’t done for the season.

And since the Wolverines managed to post a 9-4 Big Ten record with LeVert acting as little more than a spectator, they have a chance to make a run in the Big Ten tournament and get into the NCAA tournament.

That will happen with LeVert in the rotation and, if all goes according to plan, the starting lineup.

So even with a loss against Purdue, the Wolverines had a good day. Bolstering their NCAA tournament profile was an added bonus.