In Louisville’s Big East opener, the Cardinals returned last season’s “favor” by delivering an 80-62 victory over Cooley’s squad, behind as well played of a second half as many teams will play for 20 minutes this season.
“I think our team just played the best team in the country,” said Cooley after the loss. “I’ve scouted every game that they have played this year and they have a lot of different answers, a lot of experience.”
After a tough played first half, it seemed the game could go either direction as Providence trailed by just four points in the opening minutes of the second half, but then, Louisville turned it on. The Cardinals proceeded to shoot a scorching 63 percent from the field – 71 percent from three – while only turning the ball over twice. Junior guard Russ Smith came off the bench to score 13 of his game-high 23 points in the half, and maybe most importantly, helped keep Providence’s senior guard Vincent Council to just four points in the half, after he dominated last seasons matchup with 15 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds in last seasons upset.
Cooley continued to gush about his opponent: “they play at a great pace. They use their depth. It seems like their players know their roles. They were fun to watch, even to scout.”
Well I’m sure Cooley won’t really have much fun watching the tape from this game, but Rick Pitino sure should. Another thing for Pitino to be happy about, in just his second game back from a broken wrist that forced him to miss seven games, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng went for 11 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks, returning to his old form and helping to anchor a very good defensive effort from the Cardinals.
The number-four team in the country looked every bit as good if not better than number four on Wednesday night. Unless Cooley really, really enjoys watching tape on Louisville, he should be happy this was their lone meeting of the season.
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