The 16th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, off to their first 4-0 league start since 2008-09, will visit the Miami Hurricanes in an Atlantic Coast Conference battle Saturday night.
Louisville, which has won five straight games for a 9-1 overall mark, is led by Carlik Jones. The senior guard scored a season-high 23 points on Wednesday as the Cardinals defeated Wake Forest 77-65.
Jones, who also had 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals, struggled through cramps earlier in the game.
“It was rough,” Jones said. “The cramps kind of came in my inner-thigh area. I thought it would come and go, but when I laid down, it was pretty bad. I felt like I couldn’t move.”
Jones got some fluids and things went “pretty smoothly” after that, he said.
Meanwhile, Miami (5-6, 1-5) is coming off perhaps its worst loss of the season, getting routed 84-62 on Tuesday at Boston College, which entered the game winless in the league.
The Hurricanes gave up 18 3-pointers in that contest, the most they have ever allowed in an ACC game. Just as bad, Miami allowed Boston College to shoot 51.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Louisville is 13-4 against the Hurricanes, including 6-4 in Miami. The Cardinals also won the last time they faced Miami, 74-58 on Jan. 7, 2020, in Louisville.
Miami starting center Nysier Brooks, a transfer from Cincinnati, said he has great respect for Cardinals coach Chris Mack.
“He recruited me (when he was at Xavier, and I was at Cincinnati),” Brooks said. “I know his big men will come to play. He’s a wonderful coach.”
It’s hard to argue that point. Mack led Xavier to the NCAA Tournament in eight of his nine seasons there, include the last five consecutively. Mack also took Louisville to the NCAAs in his only full season so far running the Cardinals. His winning percentage was .689 at Xavier and is even better at Louisville, .707.
Of course, it really helps to have stellar players such as Jones, who is averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals, and also David Johnson, who is averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 rebounds.
Mack apparently has inspired better play out of Louisville’s third-leading scorer, Samuell Williamson, who is averaging 9.5 points.
After Williamson scored just one point last week against Virginia Tech, he and Mack had a conversation. Williamson followed up with a 15-point outing against Wake Forest.
“Running the floor was one of the main things we talked about,” Williamson said. “Just playing with more pop.”
Hurricanes veteran coach Jim Larranaga might need to give his squad a pep talk, too, especially after the loss to Boston College.
The Hurricanes are led in scoring by 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Isaiah Wong (16.5 points per game) and in rebounds by senior 7-footer Brooks (6.3 per game).
But Miami would like to reverse many aspects of its most recent performance, including its poor 3-point shooting (2-for-16).
The Hurricanes are missing guards Chris Lykes (ankle) and Kameron McGusty (hamstring), who were two of their top three scorers last season. Their return could be imminent, but, in the meantime, Brooks is trying to lift the spirits of his younger teammates.
“If you’re a shooter, shoot. If you’re a passer, pass,” Brooks said. “I’m just trying to keep things simple.”
–Field Level Media