Jennings anchors Louisville's defense

Louisville junior center Terrence Jennings, who leads the Big East and ranks fourth nationally in shot blocking, anchors the Cardinals stingy defense - a unit that has allowed opponents to shoot just 36 percent from the floor this season.

Louisville starting center Terrence Jennings, who backed up Samardo Samuels for two seasons, is making the most of his opportunity this season.

Without Samuels around, the 6-foot-10 junior has stepped up his game, leading the Cardinals in scoring (12 ppg) and blocked shots (4 bpg), while second on the team in rebounding (6.3). Jennings, who has started Louisville's first four games, is shooting 58 percent from the floor, 6th-best in the Big East, and became the first UofL player in 11 seasons to block at least three shots in four consecutive games against Marshall.

"I think Terrence Jennings is playing very good basketball," Rick Pitino said recently. "He's playing with great fire and we want him to get the ball a little more in the low-post. He was open a couple times in the last game [Chattanooga] and we didn't get him the ball."

Jennings has been a consistent offensive producer for Louisville this season. In the Cardinals first three games against Butler, Jackson State and Chattanooga, Jennings scored 13, 14, and 13 points. Jennings, a career 55 percent free throw shooter, also has made major strides at the foul line, connecting on 18 of his 31 foul shots (71 percent) this season.

The Sacramento native also is producing on the defensive end of the court. Jennings lead the Big East with 16 blocked shots, which is fourth-best nationally. He blocked six shots in the first half of Louisville's last game against Marshall, and also has managed four steals on the season.

Terrence Jennings leads the Big East in blocked shots.( Davis)
"TJ is improving," Pitino said. "He's going off his right shoulder more with his left hook. He's very active now blocking shots. He's moving without the basketball. The more he pays attention to the fundamentals the better basketball player he becomes. He's doing a very good job this year."

Jennings, who serves as a 'goal-tender' in Louisville's man-to-man defense, is a major reason why Louisville ranks third in the league in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 36 percent shooting.

"They don't have to help out on the wings," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said after his team's 106-65 loss to Louisville last week. "We penetrate and get in the paint, and they have guys who can block shots. That is why they are successful. They were fantastic defensively."

While Jennings has shown significant improvement early in the season, Pitino still sees room for improvement, especially rebounding. Though Jennings averages 6.3 rebounds per game, he grabbed only one defensive rebound in 20 minutes against Marshall as the Thundering Herd grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

"It is such a waste to press and play good defense and give up second shots," Pitino said. "It was very, very disappointing. They had 25 offensive rebounds and 10 is the norm. When your center has one defensive rebound in the game, [that's] very, very disappointing."

Jennings will have an opportunity to redeem himself on the backboard Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against Florida International in the last game of the Global Sports Shootout at the KFC Yum! Center. FIU, 4-2 this season, is coached by former NBA standout Isaiah Thomas.

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