Entering Wednesday night’s game against Cleveland State with 699 career wins on his resume, it didn’t appeare as if Louisville head coach Rick Pitino had much to worry about. Just two nights ago Louisville scored the first 29 points of the game in their win over Savannah State, a team that had already defeated Cleveland State this season.
However, sports don’t work out that way. With Trey Lewis doing his best to keep the Vikings afloat and the sixth-ranked Cardinals struggling mightily from both the foul line and beyond the arc, Wednesday’s game produced more suspense than most fans expected. In the end Louisville was able to make the plays they needed to make down the stretch, winning by the final score of 45-33.
Lewis led all scorers with 24 points, but he didn’t have much help and that’s what cost Cleveland State. Gary Waters’ other players combined to score nine points on 4-for-32 shooting from the field and 0-for-9 from three-point range.
As a team Cleveland State shot 25 percent, and Louisville wasn’t much better. The Cardinals finished the night shooting 31.9% from the field, and their 3-for-20 night from beyond the arc drops them to 25-for-104 (24 percent) for the season. Add in Louisville’s 12-for-26 effort from the foul line, as they shot less than 60 percent from the charity stripe in three of their five games to date, and it’s quite apparent that the Cardinals aren’t shooting the ball as well as they would hope to.
Montrezl Harrell accounted for 15 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday night, with guards Terry Rozier (nine points, 11 rebounds) and Chris Jones (11 points, five rebounds) also contributing for the victors.
Even with the return of those three players from last year’s team, this is still a group that has to account for the fact that they lost two of their top three scorers in Russ Smith and Luke Hancock. Louisville will be fine, because even with this ongoing shooting slump they can defend well enough to create live-ball turnover opportunities on most nights.
The Cardinals scored just nine points off of 13 Cleveland State turnovers, but only one Viking proved capable of hurting them offensively. That won’t be the case next Tuesday when Louisville hosts Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, so the sooner they can snap out of this shooting slump the better.