December 04, 2014

Louisville is off to its best start in three seasons, but style points have often been lacking.

Florida International has been a strong defensive team, but its visit Friday night could still present an opportunity for the fifth-ranked Cardinals to get things flowing offensively in a tune-up for their third Big Ten opponent in their opening eight games.

Louisville (6-0), which faces Indiana in the Jimmy V Classic in New York four days later, passed its toughest test yet in Tuesday's 64-55 win over No. 14 Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wayne Blackshear scored a season-best 22 points and hit 4 of 8 from 3-point range, while Montrezl Harrell recorded a second straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Louisville, though, has been terrible offensively in the last two games, averaging 33.7 percent shooting and 54.5 points. Its 3-point shooting has been bad all season with a 26.3 percent mark, though the Cardinals saw some improvement in that area with a 10-for-29 performance against Ohio State.

"Our offense is going to come," coach Rick Pitino said. "We've got a lot of young players, I'm playing a lot of veterans a lot of minutes. I thought we passed the ball really, really well tonight. We had a lot of open shots, I think we had 15 assists, and we just didn't make the shots. We'll start making it."

Terry Rozier has brought the offensive numbers down by going 6 of 22 over two games, but it's difficult to fault the sophomore for those struggles considering he's dislocated his pinky finger twice in a matter of days. He played through the second dislocation against the Buckeyes and scored nine of his 11 points in the final four minutes to help Louisville avoid blowing a 17-point halftime lead.

The Cardinals are certainly buying themselves time to learn on the offensive end by continuing to thrive defensively. They limited Ohio State to 30.4 percent shooting, and Minnesota's 40.0 percent in the opener is the highest they've allowed this season on their way to a 30.3 mark.

"We're really a good defensive team," Pitino said. "I'm real proud of what we're doing."

FIU (5-3) is also proud of its defensive effort, holding opponents to 36.2 percent shooting and 56.1 points, though its schedule hasn't consisted of any opponents comparable to Louisville.

The Golden Panthers had their best defensive showing in Tuesday's 59-38 home win over Kennesaw State, limiting the Owls to 26.9 percent and 4 of 21 from 3-point range. The 38-point mark established a program low for FIU opponents.

FIU started four players measuring between 6-foot-6 and 6-10, while the Cardinals' unchanged starting five includes three players ranging from 5-10 to 6-5.

Louisville has won the schools' three meetings, all in the previous four seasons, by an average of 30.0 points.

FIU is 3-35 all time against the ACC. Over the last 10 seasons, the Golden Panthers are 0-9 against ranked foes with each loss coming by at least 16 points.

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