Defending NCAA champion Louisville is easing its way into the 2013-14 season but looks just as explosive as the squad that raced to the Final Four last spring. The third-ranked Cardinals look to improve to 3-0 when they host Cornell on Friday. Louisville reinstated forward Chane Behanan from his suspension on Tuesday and got Luke Hancock back from an Achilles injury, rounding out a deep rotation.
Hancock became a star at the Final Four but it was guard Russ Smith who carried the team with his scoring at times last season, and the streak scorer poured in 30 points in a win over Hofstra on Tuesday. “I just think he shot the ball well,” coach Rick Pitino said. “I think he is a remarkable basketball player.” The Big Red are already 0-3 but put up a fight at Syracuse in their season opener last Friday and have a pair of players that can score in bunches in guards Nolan Cressler and Robert Hatter.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, WHAS (Louisville), ESPN3
ABOUT CORNELL (0-3): The Big Red held a 14-point lead on Syracuse and were up 38-32 at the half before being run off the floor in the second half and suffering an 82-60 setback. It was closer against Loyola (Maryland) and Binghamton, with Cornell falling by an average of seven points. The defensive intensity in the second half is a problem for the Big Red, who held a 43-30 edge at the break over Binghamton before surrendering 59 points in the second and losing by 10.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2-0): Behanan spent a total of 26 days away from the team on suspension before being reinstated and is still working his way back into game shape. “I think he will be OK,” Pitino said. “We are running him and working him out every morning but that is not really basketball-related activity. He will be fine.” Behanan got 14 minutes off the bench against Hofstra and went 2-of-4 from the field with one rebound. Transfer Chris Jones took over the point guard spot from the departed Peyton Siva and is fitting right in with an average of 16 points and six assists.
1. Louisville has committed just eight turnovers in two games while forcing 43.
2. Hatter went 7-for-10 from 3-point range in the first two games but missed all four attempts against Binghamton on Wednesday.
3. The Cardinals have won 18 straight games, matching a school record.
PREDICTION: Louisville 95, Cornell 71