Louisville-Clemson Preview

BY foxsports • January 9, 2016

Louisville possesses one of the best defenses in the nation, but recently it seems the offense is carrying the load.

The 16th-ranked Cardinals will visit a resurgent Clemson offense Sunday when the Tigers search for their first win in this brief series.

The fifth game between these two teams will be played in Greenville, S.C., due to renovations to Littlejohn Coliseum, the Tigers' campus home arena.

Louisville (13-2, 2-0 ACC) won the four previous meetings, including the first as ACC foes with a 58-52 victory on Jan. 7, 2015, on the way to last season's 12-6 league record. Just over a year later, the Cardinals seek their first 3-0 conference start since opening 4-0 in the Big East in 2012-13.

A season that started with defensive dominance has slightly shifted of late. Louisville has allowed more than 70 points in three games this season but two have come in the last three games - a 75-73 loss at then-No. 12 Kentucky on Dec. 26 and Thursday's 77-72 win at North Carolina State. Opponents have averaged 72.7 points in the Cardinals' three true road games, two of them losses, compared to 54.8 in the other 12.

The Wolfpack made just 1 of 15 shots during a 10-minute stretch in the first half as Louisville alternated between man-to-man and zone defense, but they chipped away at the Cardinals' 71-55 lead in the final 3:38 to make it a tight finish.

''It's better to learn lessons through victory rather than defeat,'' senior guard Damion Lee said, ''with us going home sad on the plane thinking of, `What could we have done?'''

Louisville did plenty on the offensive end, shooting 58.0 percent after halftime and 50.9 overall, leading coach Rick Pitino to say his team is ''winning with offense right now.''

Quentin Snider scored a career-high 21 points while Lee extended his streak of double-digit scoring to 39 games with 13. Chinanu Onuaku added his second straight double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

The Cardinals, who lead the nation with a scoring margin of 24.9, entered Saturday's play one of 13 teams making more than half their shots with a 50.8 percentage. Thursday was their 10th game shooting better than 50 percent and their second finishing above that mark from 3-point range, making 7 of 13 attempts.

While Louisville ranks atop the ACC by allowing 58.3 points per game, Clemson (9-6, 2-1) is third at 62.2. The Tigers, though, rank 14th of 15 teams offensively with 69.8 points per game while shooting just 43.8 percent.

After opening ACC play with an 80-69 loss at then-No. 7 North Carolina on Dec. 30, Clemson has won consecutive games over Florida State and Syracuse behind an offensive surge. The Tigers logged a season high in points in a 84-75 win over the Seminoles on Jan. 2 before edging Syracuse 74-73 in overtime Tuesday.

"I just thought we played an unbelievable game," said coach Brad Brownell, whose team is 7-2 at home. "I'm just so happy for the players that all their hard work and perseverance paid off."

Leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame scored 20 points while Landry Nnoko finished with 19 and 10 rebounds. The pair combined for 11 of Clemson's 13 points in overtime.

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