LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No. 5 Louisville will represent the Atlantic Coast Conference on the national stage long before making its league debut in more than a month.
Coach Rick Pitino just hopes his Cardinals (5-0) represent better Tuesday night against No. 14 Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge than they have so far.
Louisville has been off since Wednesday's 45-33 win against Cleveland State that Pitino believes showed how much work his team has to do. The Cardinals shot poorly from the field and the foul line and have more turnovers (64) than assists (59) on the season.
The Cardinals can't afford to be error-prone against the Buckeyes (5-0), who are shooting nearly 57 percent from the field.
Pitino said Monday offensively Ohio State "is a big challenge for us."
Louisville is struggling with its offense, making just 44 percent of its attempts. Pitino knows why, he often says bad passes make for bad shots and lead to turnovers.
The Cardinals have had a lot of both.
"Not enough assists. The assist-to-turnover ratio is not good," Pitino said Monday, sounding more encouraged by Louisville's defense and offensive rebounding.
"I don't like how we're passing the basketball. We've worked very hard this week on that."
Some falloff offensively was expected with seven new faces on the roster and having to replace the leadership of Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.
Louisville is feeling the impact of those guards' departures when it comes to ball distribution and shot selection.
Cardinals senior guard Chris Jones (18 assists, 10 turnovers) and sophomore Terry Rozier have been solid, but Pitino wants them and teammates to make better decisions. The Cardinals have shot at times when they should have passed — particularly from the perimeter — and vice versa.
"It's not the shooting as much as the type of shots we're taking," the coach said.
Louisville certainly will have to play better against Ohio State. Besides ranking second nationally in shooting, the Buckeyes also feature the assists leader in senior guard Shannon Scott (10.4 per game).
Freshman guard D'Angelo Russell (18.0 points per game) leads Ohio State's offense, where forwards Sam Thompson and Marc Loving each average 12 points per contest. Scott also adds 9.2 points along with his floor leadership.
Pitino said he welcomes this type of game. He even went as far to insist that the atmosphere of this prime-time inter-conference matchup could trump this month's showdown against top-ranked rival Kentucky.
That might be a stretch given the history between Louisville and Kentucky, but he wants the Cardinals to approach the game with the same intensity.
"Our defense and work ethic is there," Pitino said. "Now, our offense has to grow."
Note: Pitino said he hopes the NCAA decides soon on the eligibility of freshman forward Shaqquan Aaron, who has not played but is practicing. The coach didn't specify the issue but said he believes the Seattle native committed no violation and is frustrated by the delay in his status. "He gets to practice but he's not highly motivated because he doesn't see himself playing," he said of Aaron.