Even though Louisville beat Houston by double-digits in early February, coach Rick Pitino was not pleased with his team’s performance. Specifically, he thought the Cardinals were defensively lacking. Through the squad’s first ten AAC games, Louisville had held teams to .93 points per possession, a certainly stingy mark but one that must have seemed poor to a coach whose 2013 team kept both conference and overall opponents to well under .90 PPP.
During the next three games, a stretch which culminated in Tuesday’s win against South Florida (and included victories against Temple and Rutgers), L’Ville has handcuffed opposing offenses. The Cardinals’ defensive efficiency rate against those three conference foes dropped to .84 PPP, and the squad swiped nearly 25 percent of the trio’s possessions. This defensive stand did not go unnoticed by Pitino, who spoke about his group’s renewed effort on that side of the ball: “I haven’t been excited until the last ten days … I just didn’t like this team defensively … the last ten days they are coming together and doing better things, which is very encouraging.”
Now, it is worth knowing L’Ville didn’t exactly play the cream of the AAC during this defensive rediscovery, and a true test whether the Cardinals can continue to hamstring teams will likely be against Cincinnati this Saturday. The Bearcats are not known for their offense, but can frustrate opponents with their physical and grinding defense. The match-up, which is being held in Cincinnati, will likely be decided by which defense makes the least mistakes.