Indiana coach Tom Crean divulged to Louisville’s Rick Pitino when they spoke prior to the season that the Hoosiers planned to get out in transition and fire away from the field any chance they got.
Crean’s squad has worked that gameplan with solid results so far, but it may not be as successful against the fourth-ranked Cardinals’ full-court pressure during Tuesday night’s matchup in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Indiana (7-1) is fourth in the nation in scoring at 88.4 points per game while ranking ninth with a 52.4 field-goal percentage. It hit 57.4 percent from the floor in Saturday’s 95-49 win over Savannah State, including 10 of 21 from 3-point range.
“They’re a much better shooting team than us, much better passing team than us,” Pitino said. “They shoot it really well. We have to extend our defense and play much better. It’ll be a hell of a game.”
The Cardinals (7-0) appear to have the correct strategy to slow down Indiana. Their end-to-end pressure is a major reason why they rank second in the nation in opponents’ field-goal percentage at 31.2 and third in scoring defense allowing just 49.3 points per game.
Louisville held then-No. 14 Ohio State to 30.4 percent from the floor in a 64-55 win Tuesday before forcing 25 turnovers in Friday’s 82-57 victory over Florida International, one short of its season high. Its 19.6 takeaways per game rank fifth in the country.
“They have as good of a pressure defense as I have seen to this point,” Crean said. “We’re going to have to really, really be great with the basketball and get through their press.”
The Hoosiers saw some full-court pressure against Savannah State, but nothing like what they’ll have to overcome in this contest.
“For us, we are going to have to play out of our minds,” Crean said. “We are going to have to play really, really well because they have great size and strength.
“(Pitino) is very hard to prepare against, but you look forward to it because you know you are going to have to play extremely well against his teams.”
Indiana has won three straight since being stunned at home 88-86 by Eastern Washington on Nov. 24. Freshman James Blackmon Jr. (19.5 points per game) and junior Yogi Ferrell (17.3) are the club’s top scorers, and they finished with 18 points apiece Saturday.
They’ll be in for a tough test against the Cardinals, who have won eight straight at Madison Square Garden.
“I think our team is really excited about playing on such a big stage,” Blackmon said. “We have a lot of respect for Louisville, and a game like this will help us get ready for what we will see in the Big Ten.”
The Hoosiers, though, rank last in the 14-team conference in scoring defense allowing an average of 69.3 points per game and 13th in opponents’ field-goal percentage at 43.7.
Louisville shot a season-best 57.1 percent from the field Friday, as Montrezl Harrell finished 6 of 9 and had 13 points and 12 rebounds for his third straight double-double.
Anton Gill came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points. He had 20 in his previous six combined while hitting 1 of 13 from behind the arc before going 3 of 5 against FIU.
“Once you see the ball going in, it changes your demeanor,” Gill said. “Hopefully I can build from this. Now it’s time for me to pick up other things.”
Louisville won the last meeting 95-76 on Feb. 1, 2003.