December 11, 2015

Louisville bounced back with an easy win after faltering in its first major test this season. It's had plenty of time to prepare for its next contest.

After six days off, the 22nd-ranked Cardinals host Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

Louisville (6-1) couldn't hold a double-digit lead in a 71-67 loss at then-No. 3 Michigan State on Dec. 2. The Cardinals didn't appear to be moping last Saturday, though, routing Grand Canyon 111-63.

Louisville shot a season-high 54.3 percent and increased its scoring average to 86.0. Damion Lee had 24 points and made four of the Cardinals' season-high 10 3-pointers despite dealing with a bruised foot.

"He'll be fine with these two days' rest. And some of the other guys are banged up a little bit, so we'll get healthy and we'll get back," coach Rick Pitino said.

Along with giving some of his players a break, Pitino is looking to continue preparing his team - which features seven newcomers - to play his preferred defense. The Cardinals have been mostly in man-to-man because of their youth instead of the veteran coach's 2-3 matchup zone.

That hasn't been a problem so far, however. Louisville is allowing 55.7 points and 34.6 percent shooting - among the best marks in the nation. It limited Grand Canyon to 37.0 percent from the floor and a 3-for-13 performance on 3-pointers.

The Cardinals also had a 55-20 rebounding advantage - 23-7 on the offensive glass.

"This group of guys are new to each other, but we're all intelligent athletes. I think we'll catch on soon," freshman forward Raymond Spalding said.

Louisville faces five more unheralded opponents in 12 days ahead of a visit to No. 5 Kentucky on Dec. 26, its final game before ACC play.

Eastern Michigan (6-3) is among the highest-scoring teams in the Mid-American Conference with 79.8 points per game, but two of its worst performances have come against major conference opponents.

The Eagles lost 89-65 at then-No. 3 Michigan State on Nov. 23 while shooting a season-low 33.8 percent. They fared a little better at Penn State on Saturday with a 42.6-percent performance in an 81-70 defeat.

Eastern Michigan shot 53.2 percent in an 86-58 rout of NAIA opponent Rochester (Mich.) on Tuesday but continued to struggle from beyond the arc, going 6 for 21. The Eagles are connecting at 26.6 percent from 3-point range.

Leading scorer Willie Mangum IV (16.1 ppg) had 22 points and shot 8 of 10, while James Thompson IV recorded his fifth consecutive double-double. The freshman center had 17 points and 11 rebounds, giving him averages of 21.2 points, 13.6 boards and 75.9 percent from the field in that span.

EMU also held a fifth consecutive opponent under 40.0 percent shooting with its zone defense.

"Eastern Michigan plays the same type of zone that Syracuse plays, and it's really, really, a good zone. And you have to do a great job with it," Pitino said. "(Coach Rob Murphy) was an assistant under Jim (Boeheim), so you've have to do a good job with it to get good shots, and that'll be great for us."

The Eagles, 1-3 away from home, have lost 15 consecutive road games against Top 25 teams and 18 in a row to ranked opponents overall.

The Cardinals have won 41 straight at home against unranked nonconference squads heading into their first matchup with the Eagles.

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