Mike Marra set a career high with 23 points and four other Cards scored in double figures as they ripped South Alabama at the KFC Yum! Center. Unlike Florida International, South Alabama is a well coached team that likes to switch defenses. So going into the game, there was the thought the Jaguars may stick around for a bit.
Not so much. The Cards were ready.
From the start, Louisville was well prepared for what they got from South Alabama. In his post-game presser, Rick Pitino reiterated this team is very focused and absorb the scouting report very well, things last year’s team did not. You can see it on the floor. For example, when South Alabama went to a ‘Diamond’ press in the second half, the Cards broke it every single time in textbook fashion. They didn’t panic, just got the ball to the right guys and attacked the pressure.
The Cards continued passing the ball extremely well. Of their 36 made field goals, the Cards tallied 20 assists. Peyton Siva and Elisha Justice led UofL with 4 assists each, and in total, eight players recorded assists for the Cards. The thing I liked most about the Louisville passing is the fact they were no spectacular, behind the back, no look passes. They were the smart, conventional passes that led to lay-ups, dunks, and threes.
Defensively, I continue to like the way the Cards are playing man-to-man. The switches are fluid and it appears they understand what they want to do on the defensive end, but the thing I like the most is the communication. If you don’t communicate defensively, especially playing man-to-man, you have no chance. This UofL team is constantly talking on the defensive end and that’s an extremely positive sign.
Individually, it was good to see Rakeem Buckles re-emerge. Buck scored 12 points, but more importantly, grabbed 14 rebounds and many of those were aggressive rebounds. Rather than be in good position and wait for the ball to come his way, Rakeem got in good position, but went to the rebound and got it. I loved seeing Rakeem get aggressive on the glass, something his coach has been asking of him recently.
Also, Peyton Siva is starting to play really well. He hasn’t been bad, but I think most of us were waiting for him that breakout performance. I’m not saying we saw that today, but he got close. Peyton had 15 points, on 5-6 shooting from the floor and foul line, and 4 assists. He could have had several more assists if a few of his teammates would have converted on their end.
Peyton is playing under control and making the simple play. When he does that, the Louisville offense is very efficient. After the game, Pitino raved about the way Peyton has played lately, particularly in practice and thinks Peyton will have a big year. We’re seeing more consistent flashes of that being the case.
The Cards improve to 6-0 and will welcome in San Francisco, minus Bill Russell, on Wednesday night. Carl H. will have a preview of that match-up in a few days.