Louisville and Marquette are the top two offenses in the Big East, so it's not surprising each team's coach is counting on his defense to be the difference Saturday morning when the conference rivals meet at the KFC Yum! Center.
The 18th-ranked Cardinals (13-3, 2-1) average a Big East-leading 81.3 points while Marquette (12-5, 3-1) trails close behind at 80.7 per game. The teams have done it in contrasting styles, with Louisville using an up-tempo attack with a conference-best 152 3-pointers and Marquette in a more disciplined structure that has it second in the Big East at 49.9 percent shooting."They've got outstanding shooters and can put out five really good shooters on the floor together," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Anytime you can beat somebody off the bounce and then also shoot it that well, very difficult to defend."Louisville is trying to regroup after an 88-74 defeat at No. 7 Villanova on Wednesday in which the Cardinals were outrebounded 41-23 and outscored 42-24 in the paint, negating a 12-for-25 effort from 3-point range. The lack of interior presence is a concern Pitino is trying to address without injured forwards Jared Swopshire and Raheem Buckles."It's a problem, but I think every team has an Achilles' heel except the great ones," said Pitino, whose team has been outrebounded by an average of 16.3 in its losses."It's a matter of liking contact. We don't have frontcourt people that enjoy contact with the exception of Stephan Van Treese. We continue to work on blocking out. Certain guys don't like to get hit, certain guys like to hit."Preston Knowles, who hit six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points Wednesday, is shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc and averaging a team-high 15.5 points. Guard Mike Marra, second on the team with 26 3-pointers made, will also miss this game due to injury.The Golden Eagles are trying to beat a second consecutive ranked opponent after failing to do so in four opportunities during non-conference play. Marquette finally broke through Monday with a 79-57 rout of No. 9 Notre Dame as Dwight Buycks hit five 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 21 points.While Marquette made 12 of 17 from 3-point range, it limited the Fighting Irish to 39.6 percent shooting. The Golden Eagles let the previous four Top 25 teams shoot 51.1 percent and average 78.5 points."When we can score a larger percentage of our points from our secondary and primary (offense), we're much better," coach Buzz Williams said. "And the only way we can do that is to get stops, preferably consecutive stops."Darius Johnson-Odom leads the team with 15.7 points per game and has found his groove with the start of conference play, averaging 20.8 points and shooting 51.8 percent in his last four games. Forward Jae Crowder has scored 18.0 points per game in the Big East, raising his season average to 13.0.Marquette snapped a four-game losing streak to Louisville with a 69-48 home win last season when Johnson-Odom hit four 3-pointers and scored 22 points. Knowles went scoreless in 11 minutes off the bench as the Cardinals failed to have any players reach double figures.