Morning After: Win over Northern Iowa

The Morning After is a new feature at Cardinal Authority this season for men's basketball games. The feature will be five thoughts from the game the night before. Yes, this one is an early morning after a long and tough night. Had too much turkey and then watched the Cardinals struggle on offense. But hey, it's a win. Louisville beat Northern Iowa 51-46 and here are a few thoughts.

1. Defense was sensational, for the most part: If you take out Chane Behanan's few breakdowns the Louisville defense was absolutely suffocating. The Cardinals held another opponent to under 20 in the first half and Northern Iowa was still with just two points in the second half nearly nine minutes in. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith created havoc for the Northern Iowa guards and Gorgui Dieng played a solid game on that end of the floor. Sure, Behanan lost his man a couple of times and coach Rick Pitino said Wayne Blackshear did the same thing, but for the most part the defense was fun to watch. They are creating a lot of turnovers and scoring an eye-catching nearly 40 percent of the time off turnovers.

2. Now for the ugly part - offense: At times – especially when Russ Smith was out of the game – the U of L offense looked like Thanksgiving Day leftovers on the fourth day of getting them out of the fridge. It was awful. Early on it was off-balanced shots and a few poor shot selections. Later in the game, it turned to some forced shots and just awful turnovers. Doesn't seem to be a lot of movement, more watching the other player move. Now, Northern Iowa did have something to do with this and the low shooting percentage. They packed it in and dared the Cardinals to shoot and they could only hit 30 percent from the field. Here's hoping a more up-tempo game against Missouri will cure those offensive woes.

3. Siva, Behanan with poor efforts: I can't remember the last time I thought Peyton Siva had such a poor performance. After 27 assists in the first three games, the senior point guard had an off night. He had seven points and hit a three-pointers but he also managed just one point and had four turnovers. He was off his game and I don't expect to see that much this season. As for Behanan, he missed some easy shots, had some awkward attempts, missed a few defensive assignments and just didn't seem like he had it. Don't be surprised to see Montrezl Harrell get more and more minutes in games when Behanan doesn't seemed focused.

4. A win is a win, thanks Russ: This is a game the Cardinals would have lost early in the season last year. This team is going to have some offensive struggles and as coach Pitino keeps saying, will have to win with defense. But again, they did win. So that's something to be happy with. Reports from the Bahamas was coach Pitino was upset but wanting to get right back to the film room to correct some of the mistakes, which are very correctable. My hope is a game like this will help this team more from a learning standpoint than any 30-point blowout. They'll be able to look back on this come March when they're in the same situation. And finally, thanks Russ Smith for making the ending to Thanksgiving not so bad. He was out of control more at times tonight but he did win the game for the Cardinals.

5. A few leftover observations: Montrezl Harrell only played 13 minutes but had eight rebounds. He was key to a 7-0 run late in the first half, getting two offensive rebounds during that time. . . . Once again, Kevin Ware also with some nice minutes off the bench. He's getting better and better. . . . Wayne Blackshear led the team with two made three-point field goals. He's rounding into form. . . . Luke Hancock missed 10 straight three-point attempts – dating back to the Samford game – before making one to extend the lead to 40-22. He's still in a slump. . . . Friday is a rematch of sorts with former U of L assistant Tim Fuller, who spent only one season at U of L before bolting for Missouri.

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