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Pittsburgh's offense to test No. 14 Louisville's strong defense
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Latest Line: Pittsburgh +11 O/U: 141
 
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LOUISVILLE -- What happens when outstanding offense meets strong defense? That will be the question when No. 14 Louisville (13-3) takes on Pittsburgh (12-4) Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

Pittsburgh senior forward Michael Young averages 22.3 points per game. His teammate, senior guard Jamel Artis, averages 21.5. The Panther duo ranks first and second in the ACC in scoring. Louisville is the top defense in the ACC, holding league foes to just 62.7 points per game. Something's got to give.

"They have two guys who are probably the best scoring tandem in college basketball," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They not only have great scorers, but great 3-point shooters."

Young has scored 20 or more points in 10 games. Artis scored 23 in the loss to Syracuse Saturday and has scored 20-plus in four straight games.

Pitt has experience busting great defenses. The Panthers scored 88 points against a Virginia team that had been holding teams to less than 53 points per game this season.

"This is an extremely unique basketball team because they have so much size," Pitino said. "They go 6-9, 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, 6-6 in the starting lineup. That is going to be very, very difficult to prepare for."

Young, in particular, is a matchup problem. Pitt doesn't list a center on its starting lineup, choosing instead to call the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Young a forward.

"He shoots the three and he's a great one-on-one player," Pitino said of Young. "Artis and Young have as good of a 16-foot jumper as anybody in college basketball."

While Pitt's offense could cause Louisville trouble, it's the defense that first-year Pitt coach Kevin Stallings is worried about.

"We have pride in our offense and we have pride in scoring points, but we don't have a collective pride in our defense," Stallings said.

He wants the Panthers to stop giving up so many easy buckets. Pitt is last in the ACC in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy's statistical ratings.

"Our defensive play and defensive pride has to go up a few notches if we're going to be the kind of team we want to be," Stallings said.

Pitino said Pitt's defense is a concern because the Panthers switch every pick since all the Pitt players have similar size and athleticism.

"They switch every option," Pitino explained. "Teams haven't been able to run but about 5 percent of their offensive sets. They take everyone out of their offensive sets because you can't switch to a mismatch. ... They are a great offensive basketball team, but I have not seen too many teams being taken out of their offensive sets like Pittsburgh does."

For Pittsburgh, Louisville is its third ranked foe in the last four games. The Panthers took both No. 24 Notre Dame and No. 11 Virginia to overtime, losing by a point to the Irish and beating Virginia by 12.

By comparison, Louisville started its league schedule with a 61-53 home loss to Virginia and a 77-70 loss at Notre Dame. The good news for Louisville is that 6-7 starting forward Deng Adel should be back.

Adel took a knee to the head against Georgia Tech and left the game with a concussion. He was evaluated and missed two days of practice, but should be able to play Wednesday night.

"We are back to wearing helmets again in practice, but the good news is (reserve center) Matz (Stockman) and Deng Adel will be available for the Pitt game, but he won't start."

The Cardinals should have a height advantage in the low block. Louisville moved 6-10 sophomore forward Ray Spalding and 7-0 junior center Anas Mahmoud into the lineup four games ago and things seems to be improving on the offensive end for Louisville in the post.

"I think Ray right now is playing great basketball," Pitino said. "He is becoming a great interior passer. He and Anas have a great chemistry working together. Ray passes well and Anas has good hands and can catch passes."

NOTES: Both teams are 1-2 in ACC player. ... Louisville has won eight straight games against Pittsburgh. Louisville leads the series 12-5 (7-1 in Louisville, 5-1 in Pittsburgh and 0-3 in neutral site games). Louisville is second in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 6.9 per game. The Cardinals had 12 blocks last game against Georgia Tech. Louisville and Pittsburgh were rivals in the Big East prior to both making a move to the ACC. Louisville has won more games at Pittsburgh's home court than any other team (other than Pittsburgh, of course), but the Panthers have only won one game in Louisville, a 61-57 win on Jan. 15, 2006.

 


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