No. 6 Louisville, No. 17 Indiana meet after tough losses (Dec 31, 2016)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Two ranked teams will be looking to bounce back from conference-opening home losses when No. 6 Louisville meets No. 16 Indiana on Saturday in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Cardinals (11-2) dropped their Atlantic Coast Conference opener 61-53 to No. 12 Virginia on Wednesday. That same night, the Hoosiers (10-3) had their 26-game home winning streak snapped by Nebraska in an 87-83 Big Ten defeat.
Louisville's two setbacks were to ranked teams whereas Indiana has lost only once to a ranked foe, against No. 18 Butler 83-78 on Dec. 17 at this same venue.
Both powerhouse programs have had impressive wins, too. The Cardinals outlasted No. 6 Kentucky 73-70 on Dec. 21 as well as No. 15 Purdue 71-64 on Nov. 30, both games at home. The Hoosiers opened the season with a 103-99 overtime win over No. 3 Kansas on Nov. 11 in Hawaii and also knocked off No. 3 North Carolina 76-67 at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 30.
Coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals fell behind by as many as 21 points in the loss to Virginia (11-1). Louisville didn't have a double-digit scorer and missed 12 of 14 3-pointers as well as nine of 22 free throws.
"This is not a great basketball team," Pitino said. "We've had some great wins because we've done it with great effort, but our defense is not really good, our passing is not really good, and we just have to keep working and getting better because the good thing is nobody is anywhere near their potential. We saw a very poor performance out of our starters tonight at the defensive end just handling simple down screens."
Louisville had just seven assists with 14 turnovers.
Coach Tom Crean expressed similar concerns about his Hoosiers after the upset loss to the Cornhuskers (7-6). Indiana had 19 turnovers and allowed Nebraska to score a season high in points, 21 more than the Hoosiers' defensive season average.
"We didn't challenge shots enough, and made some turnovers that we just can't make," Crean said. "And it's hard to get across to any team, but especially when you get into league play when it's magnified so much is the mental errors, and we had too many of them tonight, far too many. There's a list of them. And we've got to get out of it. We've got to continue to understand how to not make the game hard for ourselves."
He was mindful of cleaning up those mistakes with an eye on the challenge that Louisville presents.
"We've got to just tighten up," Crean said. "So I'm clear on that. I don't need to see the stat sheet to know that. We'll get into the film. And I told them it's going to be a short night for them because we'll be back getting it figured out (Thursday) and getting ready for what will be an incredible battle for us on Saturday with Louisville."
Indiana averages 88.4 points per game with four players scoring in double digits. Junior guard James Blackmon Jr. averages 17.9 points, junior guard Robert Johnson 14.2, sophomore center Thomas Bryant 12.4 and sophomore forward OG Anunoby 12.0.
Louisville averages 76.1 points per game with three players scoring in double digits. Junior guard Quentin Snyder is at 11.6 points per game, sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell 11.5 and sophomore forward Deng Adel 10.2.
The Cardinals are allowing 60.3 points per game while the Hoosiers are giving up 67.6.
The two teams last met two seasons ago with Louisville prevailing 94-74 in the Jimmy V. Classic in New York City.