Rick Pitino may have 750 wins on his college resume, but even a Hall-of-Fame coach with impeccable on-court credentials can suffer from a lapse of judgement. With five full days of rest following their runner-up finish in the Battle 4 Atlantis, his 14th-ranked Cardinals hope to rebound from a disappointing defeat Wednesday when they host No. 16 Purdue as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“This loss is all my fault … Anytime a team doesn’t get in the right defense, the right press, you know it’s mental and physical fatigue. … I didn’t make the substitutions. ... I saw they were fatigued. I was just hoping the timeouts could overcome it, but it didn‘t,” Pitino said after Louisville squandered a 22-point lead before falling 66-63 to No. 11 Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. Pitino was hard on himself in large part because he didn’t trust his bench enough to get the Cardinals their third win in three days at the event, and the Bears took advantage of the fatigue by shooting 65.4 percent in the second half. The Boilermakers, who won’t play another true road game after this contest until they visit Ohio State on Jan. 5, won all four of their games in the Cancun Challenge since suffering their own three-point setback (79-76) against defending national champion Villanova on Nov. 14. Purdue followed up its tournament championship triumph over Auburn at the Cancun Challenge last week with a 79-68 victory over NJIT on Saturday.
TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT PURDUE (5-1): Sophomore 6-9 forward Caleb Swanigan (18.8 points, 12 rebounds per game) was named the MVP of the Cancun Challenge and has already posted five double-doubles, including a 22-point, 13-rebound effort Saturday versus NJIT in which he made all six of his shots and all 10 of his free throws. Junior center Isaac Haas (16.5, 4.8) stands 7-2, 290 to give the Boilermakers one of the most imposing frontcourts in the country, but he has 18 points over his last two games combined after averaging 20.3 over his first four. Freshman guard Carsen Edwards has started to emerge as a complement to the aforementioned twin towers, totaling 40 points on 14-of-25 shooting (including 7-of-12 beyond the arc) over his last two outings.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (5-1): In his postgame presser, Pitino repeatedly stated how important it will be to get reserve guards David Levitch and Ryan McMahon more playing time to take some of the pressure off leading scorers Donovan Mitchell (13 points, 6.5 rebounds, ACC-high three steals per game) and Quentin Snider (11 points per game). While he lacks the bulk of Haas (210 pounds), 7-0 forward Anas Mahmoud (2.3 blocks in 18.7 minutes) figures to make things difficult for Purdue’s post players, as he spearheads a defense that ranks eighth in the country with 7.2 blocks per game. Junior Jaylen Johnson (10.5 points, 9.7 boards in 23 minutes) is Louisville’s answer to Swanigan, although he totaled only 17 points while battling foul trouble in two of his three games in the Bahamas.
1. Louisville, which ranks sixth in Division I in field-goal percentage defense (34.7) and seventh in scoring defense (56.8), has won 41 consecutive home games in November.
2. Purdue ranks seventh nationally in assists (19.7) but 266th in offensive turnover percentage (18.6).
3. Mitchell’s 18 steals through six outings this year are seven fewer than he had as a freshman last season.
PREDICTION: Louisville 78, Purdue 71