Louisville defensive improvement a must against Furman

NCAA Men

Louisville earned the win Tuesday night in Mike Pegues’ debut as the interim head coach.

But Pegues was far from satisfied with the Cardinals’ inconsistent effort. Louisville is looking for a major improvement when it hosts Furman on Friday night.

Both teams were off Wednesday and Thursday following season-openers Tuesday, when Louisville overcame an early second-half deficit to pull away for a 72-60 win over visiting Southern and Furman cruised to a 118-66 victory over Division II North Greenville.

The win was Louisville’s 21st consecutive victory in a home opener. But it wasn’t an easy one for the Cardinals, who surrendered 15 offensive rebounds to Southern and allowed the Jaguars to go 5-for-9 from 3-point territory in the first half.

Southern also mounted an 11-1 run spanning the halves to take a 36-34 lead with 17 minutes left to play before Noah Locke, who scored a team-high 16 points, hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Louisville the lead for good. But the Jaguars remained within single digits until midway through the second half.

“I shared with the guys in the locker room that that defensive effort won’t do because of the teams we have coming up,” said Pegues, who is working as Louisville’s coach while Chris Mack serves a six-game suspension for how he handled former assistant coach Dino Gaudio’s extortion attempt. “Our defensive rebounding has to improve drastically. Guys flat out have to play harder. We have to be better. That is our responsibility as a staff, to get these guys ready to play on Friday.”

Furman had a much easier time Tuesday, when five players scored in double figures as the Paladins set school records for 3-pointers (22) and assists (34). Mike Bothwell and Alex Hunter, both named to the preseason all-Southern Conference team, led the way with 22 points apiece.

“The ball moved pretty freely — our turnovers were low and our assists are high and usually those are good nights,” Furman head coach Bob Richey said. “I think that a lot of guys did some great things.”

Furman was picked to finish second in the Southern Conference preseason poll. The Paladins finished third last season, when they went 10-5 in league play and finished 16-9 overall following a first-round conference tournament loss to VMI.

Louisville is 4-0 all-time against Furman. The game Friday will be the first between the schools since Dec. 22, 2002, when the host Cardinals earned a 104-63 win.

–Field Level Media

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