The Cardinals enter today’s game ranked #3 in the country with a record of 11-1. In a post last weekend, I covered how Louisville is not only one of the best defensive teams in the country, but also among the most efficient offenses in the college basketball. UofL is coming off of two consecutive wins against mid-major programs after their setback against Texas Tech. Today’s game will be their only game in a sixteen-day span between their win over Miami (Ohio) on December 18th and facing Florida State on the 4th of January. The Cardinals are a veteran, talented ball club that will look to put the clamps on the Kentucky offense and methodically break down the defense. Let’s dive in and figure out how to beat the Dirty Birds.
#2 Darius Perry: 6’2″ 195 lbs, Junior Point Guard
5.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.6 apg
Point Guard. Willing shooter. 8/27 from 3 so not shooting a good percentage, but will shoot them when he is open. Start by closing out a little shorter to take away the drive. Just contest if he shoots it. More dangerous as a driver than as a shooter. No right hand drives. Though we want to take away the drive you can pressure him as much as you want without getting beat off the dribble. Look to make him uncomfortable. Likes to shoot the pull-up J if he can’t get all the way to the rim. Really looking to drive it right. Stay between him and the basket and make him finish over you. You can help off of him when he doesn’t have it. Clog up the driving lanes. Dig the ball out of the post. Look to take it off Nwora. Can go under ballscreens and handoffs. Stay between him and the basket!
#30 Ryan McMahon: 6’0″ 185 lbs, Redshirt Senior Guard
9.8 ppg, 46.3% 3pt %
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 67 of 82 shots have been 3’s. Have to be tight on him and take away his attempts. Absolutely NO help off of him. Be there on the catch to take away the catch-and-shoot. You are trying to take any 3-point attempts. Chase off of down screens and get over flares. Switch if there is a gap to take away the 3. Have to find him in transition. Has a very quick trigger and will shoot them from deep. Have to get out and take them away regardless of where he is. Your only job if you are guarding him is to take away the 3. If he isn’t dribbling you aren’t close enough. NO 3’s!!!
#33 Jordan Nwora: 6’7″ 225 lbs, Junior Forward
21.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Best player. All-around scorer. Have to play him straight up the best that you can. Shooting 41.4% from 3. No catch-and-shoot 3’s. Also a very good driver. Strong & physical. Really likes to spin to create space for the jumper when he drives it. Will spin either way but likes going left to come back right. Always finishing with his right hand. You have to be up in him and be physical on his right shoulder to make those jumpers difficult. Contest everything!!! They throw it ahead to him in transition a lot so he can get going downhill. Have to get all the way back and protect the basket. Will slip a lot of screens that he sets. Really want to try and keep him out of the paint, but also a very good outside shooter. Have to be ready to take away the 3 and contest everything as he drives it. Likes to shoot them off the dribble too. Pressure him to break his rhythm. Should be able to make him turnover it over a couple times if we pressure him. Right hand, left shoulder when he catches it around the basket. Good offensive rebounder. Box out!!!
#24 Dwayne Sutton: 6’5″ 220 lbs, Redshirt Senior Forward
9.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg
Undersized 4, but very strong. Right hand driver. No right hand drives!!! Very strong, physical player. Capable shooter. 10/24 from 3. Just takes the ones that he knows he is supposed to shoot. Be close enough to take away the obvious catch-and-shoot 3, but make sure you are taking way the right hand drive. Can look for opportunities to help off of him when he doesn’t have it on the perimeter. Help when others drive it. Dig the ball out of the post. If he makes a couple we can stay tighter and take way the 3. Does handle it some when he rebounds it. Plays extremely hard. Outstanding offensive rebounder. Averages over 3 offensive rebounds per game!!! Have to find him and box him out when the shot goes up. Go initiate contact as he crashes the glass. No lay-ups. No right hand drives.
#23 Steven Enoch: 6’10” 255 lbs, Redshirt Senior Center
11.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Post player. Big & strong. Posts up hard. Wants to catch it deep and score with his right hand over his left shoulder. Does shoot the lefty hook some, but is much more dangerous over his left shoulder. Take away the drop steps. Will face-up and shoot the J some if he catches it further off the block. Just contest it if he shoots. Looking to duck you in. Do your work early and make him catch it further off the block. They really like to throw the high-low pass to him. If you are guarding the ball, have your hands up. If you are guarding Enoch in the post, have your hands up especially if you are more in front. We should be able to come help off non-shooters. Make him finish with you between him and the basket. Do not go for ball fakes. No left shoulder baskets. Good offensive rebounder. Box out!!!
#5 Malik Williams: 6’11” 245 lbs, Junior Center
7.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Backup post player. Tall and long. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Always looking to score it with his right hand, even on the left side. Be physical with him and make him catch it off the block. Really wants to finish around you or with a dunk. Make him score with you between him and the basket. Percentages go down when you are between him and the basket. Very good offensive rebounder. Averaging 2 offensive rebounds per game. BOX OUT!!!
#10 Samuell Williamson: 6’7″ 200 lbs, Freshman Guard/Forward
5.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Long wing. Non-shooter. Closeout short. No right hand drives. Likes to use the shot fake to try and get by you going right. Really looking to drive it right to shoot the pull-up J or to get all the way to the basket. Help off of him when he doesn’t have it on the perimeter. Clog up the driving lanes. Dig it out of the post. Try and take it off of Nwora. We will adjust if he makes a couple. The first one or two are on the coaches not on you. Stay between him and the basket and make him score over you. Will look to offensive rebound. Athletic. Box him out!
#0 Lamarr Kimble: 6’0″ 185 lbs, Graduate Student Guard
4.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 3.0 apg
Backup Point Guard. Not shooting a good percentage. Closeout short to stay between him and the basket. Will adjust if he makes a couple. Just like with Williamson, the first one or two outside shots are on the scouting report, not on you. No right hand drives. Will look to bring it fast in transition some. Just contest if he shoots it. Be in help off of him when he doesn’t have it. Clog up the driving lanes and dig on the post. No layups for him. Stay between him and the basket. Low percentage finisher.
#13 David Johnson: 6’5″ 210 lbs, Freshman Guard
Backup guard. Handles it quite a bit when he is in there. No right hand drives. Stay between him and the basket and make him score over you. Help off of him when he doesn’t have it. Clog up the driving lanes. Dig the ball out of the post. Just be ready to contest if he shoots from the perimeter. No layups for him. Make him uncomfortable when he has it. Don’t get smoked going right, but apply as much pressure as you can. Likes to shoot the pull-up J. Contest.
Louisville’s base offense is a 4-around-1 motion offense. They are pretty free-flowing offensively and use their versatility to create matchup problems. They always have at least four guys in the game who are at least a threat to dribble, pass, and shoot it. They have two different primary entries into their motion offense. They will set a “butt screen” which is simply a forward standing around the top of the key facing the rim and standing there as the point guard picks a side and attacks down hill. The forward then rolls to the basket as another player who started with his head under the rim replaces up to the top of the key. From here they are in their motion. They will also start with an “Away” action which is a staggered double screen for a guard coming out of the corner. From a secondary alignment the point guard will hit the trailing forward who passes to the guard coming out of the ball side corner. Then, the point guard and the trail spot forward set a staggered double for the guard coming out of the opposite corner. From here, they are just in 4-around-1 motion. They also run a lot of half-court sets, primarily out of a Horns alignment.
Horns-Flex: Point Guard hits an elbow and cuts over top the ball as it is reversed to the other forward. Point Guard sets the initial Flex screen and then receives a downscreen. The player that came off the initial Flex screen then sets the Flex screen on the other side and gets a downscreen. Have to be willing to switch the Flex screen if you get hung up, or switch the downscreen especially him McMahon is coming off.
Horns-Elbow Ballscreen: Point Guard hits Nwora, usually on the left elbow, and he gets a ballscreen from the forward on the other elbow. This is one that you probably should plan on switching. However, if you are already up in Nwora and can ride him over the screen (we are going over anyway) then you can stay. Anytime you see them get into a Horns alignment you should be physical and really try to make the elbow entry pass difficult. Texas Tech took them out of what they wanted to do by not just allowing that pass to happen easily.
Horns-Flare: One of their favorite Horns actions. Point Guard will come off a little ballscreen set by Nwora on whatever elbow he starts on. They aren’t really looking to score off that initial ballscreen. However, after setting the ballscreen, Nwora will immediately be coming off a flare set by the forward on the other elbow. He will curl it looking for a lob if you chase him (which you HAVE to chase him). In this clip #15 for Miami did a great job staying attached and getting over the flare with him. Nwora decides to pop back out to the wing. They go under the ballscreen and that is okay with where it was set. We would want to be applying more ball pressure on him because we should be able to without getting beat off the dribble. If you are guarding him closer, then jump under the ballscreen and meet him on the other side, that alone probably keeps him from making it (3/14 on the season).
Horns-Diagonal Screen/Screener: Hit an elbow, Point Guard cuts underneath to the other wing and the ball is reversed around back to him. As this happens the ball side guard in the corner goes to set a diagonal back screen for the forward who received the initial catch. Here McMahon sets a very good back screen which gets Enoch open on the block against a smaller defender after the switch. McMahon is also wide open for a 3 at the top of the key had they gone to him. If you get screened this much it is fine to switch, but then you need to also switch the downscreen so you can stay in to help more on the post. Here, #12 doesn’t stay with McMahon but also is too late helping onto the post after switching the back screen.
High-Low: This may be their most run offensive action in the half-court and is one of the few things they do outside of their Horns series. They get great spacing, and similar to Ohio State, have several guys who have gotten very good at throwing the high-low pass. They hit a guard on the wing as the point guard cuts to the strong side corner. A forward will flash to the high post as the other player (Nwora below) spaces out to the wing leaving Enoch on an island down low for the high-low pass. In this clip, the player guarding #2 Darius Perry should have been sagged into the pain a little more while the ball was at the top of the key. He was guarding Perry too close as he moved to the corner away from the ball.
They are a solid man-to-man team defensively. They will apply a lot of on-ball pressure and really try to stay between you and the basket. You have to be ready to try and attack off the dribble when the ball hits your hands because they will be up pressuring you. Be ready to catch-and-shoot when it is kicked out after dribble penetration. They really look to stuff the driving lanes. Very good rebounding team too. We have to try and crash the glass to get a couple of easy ones.
Keys to the Game
- No 3’s for #30 McMahon or #33 Nwora. McMahon ONLY wants to shoot 3’s. He is very aggressive, loves running off screens, and has a quick trigger. He will squeeze them off. Will shoot them from deep. You have to stay attached and tight ALL THE TIME. Your only job is to take away his 3-point attempts while guarding him. Take away all catch-and-shoot 3’s for Nwora. No rhythm dribble 3’s. Should be pressuring him anyway.
- Be great on the defensive glass. They are a very good offensive rebounding team with five players averaging around two or more offensive rebounds. Dwayne Sutton averages over 3 a game. They will crash the glass with four players every time a shot goes up and you have to be PHYSICAL and make CONTACT to box your man out. You can’t just stand and jump to get the rebound.
- BALL PRESSURE. Texas Tech had success taking them out of their rhythm by really pressuring the ball and making them uncomfortable. Especially when #33 Nwora has it you need to be up in him and make him dribble it. Don’t get smoked off the dribble, but error on the side of PRESSURE! When #2, #0, or #13 are handling it you can pressure them too. Just don’t get smoked going right. None of those guys are great and we should get a couple turnovers with our pressure.
- Attack, attack, attack. Just like we want to provide on-ball pressure defensively, they will play the same style of defense. They are going to try and bother the ball but don’t have the athletes that we have. When you catch the ball you should be thinking about driving it and getting into the paint to collapse their defense.