October 27, 2014

Chinanu Onuaku has played a key role in helping Louisville become one of the nation's top defensive teams. His rise as a scorer could lead to even bigger things.

As the sophomore big man looks to keep developing offensively, the 17th-ranked Cardinals try to build on one of their best defensive performances and capture a 14th consecutive home win Wednesday night against up-and-coming Florida State.

After suffering its first ACC loss at Clemson on Jan. 10, Louisville improved its defensive field-goal percentage for a fourth consecutive contest Thursday when it limited then-No. 20 Pittsburgh to a season-worst 28.6 percent in a 59-41 home win.

The Cardinals (14-3, 3-1) held the Panthers to 1 of 11 from 3-point range and forced a season high-tying 19 turnovers. Onuaku totaled a career-high 18 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots despite also committing six turnovers.

He's averaging team highs of 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for Louisville, which leads the nation in scoring defense (57.8) and field-goal percentage defense (35.7) and ranks near the top in rebounding margin (plus-12.5).

After scoring 9.5 points per game over the first 13, Onuaku has averaged 14.0 points and 12.3 boards in the past four.

''If Nanu wants to, he could be the most dominant player in the ACC,'' guard Trey Lewis said. ''And he wants to. I'm starting to see that more and more. He demands the ball. He wants the ball inside and he makes great decisions with the ball.''

Onuaku, who shoots underhand free throws at a 53.1 percent clip, will look to stay aggressive offensively while helping the Cardinals control the glass against Florida State. The young Seminoles rank 13th with a minus-4.4 rebounding margin in ACC games.

Florida State (12-5, 2-3), though, has recovered from an 0-3 conference start behind the excellent play of guards Dwayne Bacon and freshman backcourt mate Malik Beasley. Averaging 16.7 and 17.1 points, respectively, they've helped spark the past two victories - the most recent of which was Sunday's 69-62 home win over No. 13 Virginia.

Beasley's 22 points and nine rebounds paced the Seminoles in last Wednesday's 85-78 win at North Carolina State.

"They take you off the bounce as well as anyone in the league," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They have terrific one-on-one talent and they also have great size."

Florida State has shot a combined 49.5 percent while hitting 15 of 30 from 3-point range in its last two. That kind of accuracy might prove difficult to continue against Louisville, which has won by an average of 28.8 points during its run at home.

The Cardinals limited the Seminoles to 39.6 percent from the field and 1 for 10 from 3-point range in a 81-59 road win Feb. 28, the first meeting between the schools in 24 years.

"We've got to prepare for another nationally-ranked team," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, whose squad hasn't won back-to-back games against ranked opponents since a three-game run in March 2012. "This is a good opportunity for our guys ... a good stretch because you don't have room mentally or emotionally not to be ready for the very best."

Damion Lee, a transfer from Drexel, leads Louisville with 16.7 points per game but has missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts over the past two games.

The Cardinals have gone 4 for 34 on 3s in those contests, while Florida State has allowed 29.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc in its last six.

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