The “noise” that top-ranked Louisville heard about its strength of schedule prior to facing No. 4 Michigan was silenced with a 58-43 shutdown win over the Wolverines on Tuesday.
According to the KenPom ratings, Louisville’s strength of schedule was ranked No. 328 before the game. The Cardinals’ best win was against then-No. 88 Miami, an 87-74 victory in the season opener on Nov. 5.
“Yeah, I can sense how hungry our team is in the locker room,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said after the win over the Wolverines, who were coming off victories over No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
“We knew it’d be a big game. Our guys hear the noise. They hear we haven’t played anybody, whatever our schedule’s ranked. They have a belief in themselves. I am happy for our fan base.”
The Cardinals (8-0, 1-0 ACC) now host unranked Pittsburgh (7-2, 1-0) on Friday. It is the second ACC game for both teams. Louisville beat Miami and Pittsburgh topped Florida State in its season opener.
Louisville’s strength of schedule rating improved to No. 234 after the victory over Michigan. The win for the Cardinals occurred one day after they claimed the top spot in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in six years.
Jordan Nwora had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Michigan, which was held to a season-low 25.9 percent shooting performance in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge game.
“I really didn’t think they generated a whole lot of good looks, and for our defense to do that to what I think is a very tough team to defend with the way they’re shooting the ball … our defense grew up a little bit tonight,” Mack said.
Louisville was also strong with its rebounding, ending with a 48-41 edge over Michigan as Steven Enoch had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Dwayne Sutton had 11 boards.
Pittsburgh will come into the KFC Yum! Center on a five-game winning streak after the Panthers posted a 71-60 victory over Rutgers in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Xavier Johnson scored a season-high 20 points and backcourt mates Trey McGowens and Ryan Murphy added 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Pitt’s backcourt trio combined for 51 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds and six steals in that contest and will present a challenge for Louisville’s tough defense.
“We’re sharing the ball better and we made some shots,” said Pitt coach Jeff Capel, who played only seven players against Rutgers.
“We shot the ball very well, but something we’ve consciously tried to make an effort to do a better job with is move the basketball to get movement and try to get guys to play even without the ball.
“Now, we are getting ready to play No. 1 Louisville. Our schedule has forced us to grow up. We’ve gotten to learn by going through the gauntlet a little bit for where we are as a program.”
In addition to beating Florida State and Rutgers, Pitt has defeated Kansas State and Northwestern and has lost to West Virginia.
–Field Level Media