No. 11 Louisville hosts road-weary Texas Southern
No. 11 Louisville doesn't have to look very far to find game tape of Texas Southern (4-4), the team the Cardinals will face Saturday at 2 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
The Cardinals' last game was a 74-51 win over Southern Illinois (5-4) on Wednesday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Texas Southern's last contest was a 74-70 loss to Southern Illinois last Saturday at SIU.
Many times relying on comparative scores with a common opponent is a poor predictor of how an upcoming basketball game will turn out. In this case, however, it seems like a clear edge for the Cardinals (8-1).
As those scores would indicate, Texas Southern is a significant underdog in Saturday's matchup with the Cardinals. The Tigers have lost three straight games,first an 84-73 loss at Louisiana Lafayette on Nov. 27, then an 85-63 loss to Arizona three days later before last Saturday's loss to Southern Illinois.
While the Tigers have wins over Delaware State, Rice, La Salle and James Madison, the season hasn't gone like they expected. Upcoming games at Louisville, at Cincinnati, at LSU, vs. TCU and Baylor won't help Texas Southern's win-loss record. Texas Southern coach Mike Davis scheduled 13 non-conference road games this season and won't play a home contest until the 17th game of the season.
“In 15 years, they will be able to say they got to go places, see places, play in some historical arenas,” Davis said of his team's travels.
The road games serve another purpose, of course, as they fund the basketball program. Each road game comes with a check for the Texas Southern program.
“At some of these big schools, you can get around $350,000 to put back into the school,” Davis said.
Despite the four early losses, Texas Southern remains the top team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in several computer rankings. Once they finally return home, the Tigers will play nine of the final 15 games at home.
Zach Lofton, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is the Tigers' top offensive threat at 21 points per game, but they also rely on a trio of short guards, 5-8 Dulani Robinson, 5-9 Tyree Bynum and 5-10 Jalan McCloud, with Robinson averaging 12.9 points per game. Senior 7-footer Marvin Jones and 6-7 sophomore forward Derrick Griffin provide the Tigers' lineup with height and rebounding.
“We might not be there yet,” Davis said. “But we can be pretty good. We have a lot of talent.”
As for Louisville, coach Rick Pitino makes it clear he doesn't think his team is close to its potential.
“I think we're good at a lot of things. I don't think we're great at anything. We hope to get there, though, in a hurry – before the next two weeks,” Pitino said.
The Cardinals have Saturday's game vs. Texas Southern and a contest against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky next Saturday before they launch into one of the toughest four-game stretches of any schedule in the nation. Louisville will face Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana and Notre Dame in four consecutive games.
Perhaps that complete game will come Saturday vs. Texas Southern. Pitino wants to see the Cardinals pass the ball better vs. the Tigers than they have for most of the season.
“It's so evident that guys are just looking for their shots,” Pitino said. “When they get to the point that they're equally gratified with the pass as they are the shot, then we'll be a pretty good basketball team.”
Louisville leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is averaging 11.3 points per game, but has not scored in double figures the last three contests. The Cardinals only other double-figure scorer is junior point guard Quentin Snider, who is averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 assists per game.