While Louisville coach Rick Pitino said his team was crushed
following a loss to the nation’s second-ranked team earlier this
week, falling to DePaul on Saturday at Allstate Arena seems like it
would be far more devastating.
The 19th-ranked Cardinals look to bounce back from their first
loss in a month and continue their dominance over the lowly Blue
Demons, who are mired in a 36-game losing streak to Top 25
Louisville (20-6, 8-5 Big East) seemed poised to upset No. 2
Syracuse on Monday, leading by five with 3:38 remaining, but the
Orange would score the game’s final six points and hand the
Cardinals a 52-51 loss.
“There are no moral victories,” Pitino said. “We are crushed
with this loss – absolutely crushed. We didn’t get the job done
when we should have. The only thing that will erase this loss is to
beat them up there.”
While winning at the Carrier Dome on March 3 will be a tall
order for Pitino’s team, it shouldn’t have trouble earning a
victory at Allstate Arena.
The Cardinals defeated the Blue Demons 76-59 at home on Jan. 14
and have won 21 of the last 23 meetings. They’ve won eight straight
in the series since a 60-58 overtime loss in 2004, when both teams
were in Conference USA.
DePaul (11-14, 2-11), in 15th place in the 16-team Big East, has
lost 36 straight to ranked opponents since an 84-76 victory over
then-No. 17 Villanova on Jan. 3, 2008.
A major reason for the Blue Demons’ struggles is their defense
allowing 76.2 points per game, worst of the 74 schools in the six
BCS conferences. Facing a DePaul defense surrendering an average of
82.8 points on 50.7 percent shooting during a five-game losing
streak could be just what Louisville needs after being stymied by
Against the Orange, the Cardinals shot 34.7 percent, including 5
of 19 from beyond the arc, to finish with their lowest scoring
output of the season. They averaged 75.3 points in winning their
previous six games.
Freshman Chane Behanan led the way against Syracuse with 16
points on 7-of-8 shooting, but senior Kyle Kuric, who averages a
team-best 12.8 points, scored three and went 1 for 8 from the
Russ Smith and Chris Smith, who combine to average 22.4 points,
totaled 13 points on 3-of-15 shooting Monday but had no problems
hitting shots against DePaul last month.
Russ Smith scored 25 while Chris Smith added 20 points and made
four 3-pointers for the Cardinals, who shot 50.9 percent and
outrebounded the Blue Demons 41-33.
Louisville also did a good job of shutting down Cleveland
Melvin, limiting the conference’s third-leading scorer to eight
points on 3-of-11-shooting.
Melvin, who averages 17.8 points, had another tough night in
Wednesday’s 80-54 loss to Connecticut, DePaul’s 10th defeat in 11
games. The 6-foot-8 sophomore missed 9 of 14 shots to finish with
“When he got the ball there were three guys eyeballing him, if
not four,” coach Oliver Purnell said. “That’s happening now and
it’s going to continue to happen.”
The lack of other good scoring threats has plagued Melvin and
the Blue Demons. Second-leading scorer Brandon Young has been
struggling, averaging 8.0 points on 27.6 percent shooting over his
last seven games.
Young was the only DePaul player to score in double figures in
the first matchup against Louisville with 14 points, but he was 5
for 16 from the field as the team shot 34.3 percent.
The Cardinals lead the Big East in field-goal percentage defense