Louisville-Seton Hall Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- While his team continues to win with offense, Louisville coach Rick Pitino insists its defense remains far from the program's own high standards.
The third-ranked Cardinals might have to make some quick strides in that area with one of their top scorers expected to miss up to four games.
Louisville will try for its ninth consecutive win Wednesday night when it visits Seton Hall, which looks for its ninth victory in a row at home despite having its own injury concerns.
The Cardinals (13-1, 1-0 Big East) have built a reputation as a tough, defensive-minded club under Pitino, but they rank second among conference teams in scoring at 78.4 points per game after averaging 68.2 on their way to the 2012 Final Four.
Louisville, however, took a hit Monday when sophomore forward Chane Behanan suffered a left high ankle sprain in practice. Behanan, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds, is expected to miss about 10 days, putting him in danger of missing four games - the last of which is a Jan. 19 showdown with Syracuse.
"Without Chane, we'll have to make some adjustments," Pitino said.
Freshman Montrezl Harrell, who has scored 6.6 points per game, will replace Behanan in the starting lineup.
Russ Smith, though, should continue to lead the Cardinals. The junior guard ranks third in the Big East at 20.0 points per game after scoring 23 last Wednesday in a 80-62 conference-opening win over Providence.
Louisville shot 52.6 percent from the field against the Friars, the third time in six games it's made at least half of its shots.
"Once our defense catches up to our offense we have a chance to be a really special team," Pitino said.
After limiting teams to 37.2 percent from the floor in its previous five games, Pitino's club has allowed a 46.5 field-goal percentage - including 43.9 (18 for 41) from 3-point range - in its last two. The Cardinals rank in the bottom half of the conference in defensive field-goal percentage (40.2) after finishing sixth nationally in that category last season.
Louisville will try to tighten it up against a short-handed Seton Hall team that won seven straight games before falling 93-74 at then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Saturday.
Playing with just seven healthy scholarship players due to injury, Seton Hall (12-3, 1-1) won 73-72 at DePaul to open Big East play last Wednesday. The Pirates, though, couldn't repeat the trick while playing only eight against the Irish.
"It becomes tough to play in this league with just one power forward and one center," coach Kevin Willard said.
Guard Fuquan Edwin has done all he can to keep the Pirates competitive, ranking second among Big East players with a 52.1 field-goal percentage and just behind Smith in scoring at 17.9 points per game.
Backcourt mate Aaron Cosby, a Louisville native, chipped in with a career-high 24 points at DePaul and added 21 in South Bend. The sophomore went 9 for 16 from beyond the arc on that road swing.
The Pirates have been dangerous from long distance, hitting at least nine 3-pointers in six straight games and leading all Big East teams in 3-point makes (133) and attempts (348) while sitting second at 38.2 percent.
Seton Hall, however, has shot just 29.7 percent from the field - including 19.0 percent from beyond the arc - in three straight losses in the series since Willard took over.
Peyton Siva had 14 points and six steals in the most recent meeting, leading the Cardinals to a 61-55 win in March in the second round of the Big East tournament.
Updated January 8, 2013