Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - The second-ranked Louisville Cardinals close out a three-game homestand to begin the 2012-13 season when they welcome the Miami-Ohio RedHawks to the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.
Rick Pitino's Cardinals are viewed as a real national title contender this season and with good reason. Louisville returns the core of a team that made it to the Final Four a year ago. The Cardinals have certainly looked the part of a national power in the first two games of the season, making light work of both Manhattan (79-51) and most recently, Samford (80-54).
John Cooper is in his first season at the helm at Miami-Ohio and the team has begun his tenure with a road loss at nationally-ranked NC State (97-59), followed by a home win against Grambling State (80-54).
This marks the fourth meeting all-time between these two teams. Louisville has won all three prior matchups, including a hard-fought defensive battle (47-44) in the last meeting in 2007.
The RedHawks were simply out-manned at NC State, but turned things around at home against Grambling State last time out. The team did so with superior defense, setting a program record with 22 steals, while 32 total turnovers. Reggie Johnson led the way at the offensive end, coming off the bench to pour in 20 points in 26 minutes of work. Will Felder, Jon Harris and Allen Roberts added 12 points apiece, while Bill Edwards chipped in 11.
The numbers are a little out of whack for Miami after two games, as the team has experienced both sides of a blowout. Currently, the team is averaging 69.5 ppg, while giving up 75.5. It may take some time before those number settle out, although it doesn't look good staring down the barrel of Louisville's impressive arsenal.
Louisville has a trio of players that can be found on the John R. Wooden Award watchlist to begin the season in Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. However, it is Russ Smith who has been the most impressive Cardinal in the early going, scoring 23 points in the opener against Manhattan and following that up with a team-high 18 against Samford. Behanan is netting 10.0 ppg thus far, while grabbing a team-high 13.5 rpg, powered by his 18-rebound effort against Samford. Dieng (9.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is a force inside as well. Siva hasn't filled up the basket yet (8.5 ppg), but is absolutely the orchestrator of the Louisville symphony, doling out 17 assists over the first two games. Usually two games are not a fair barometer of a team, but Louisville has excelled defensively, limiting its first two foes to just 52.5 ppg on a mere .375 shooting. In addition, Louisville holds a +10.5 rebounding margin and has already forced 48 turnovers.