LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After falling to a pair of high-caliber teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Cardinals are returning home to face a top-ten team. Louisville lost to No. 5 Tennessee in the opener, and Marquette in the consolation game in overtime.
Tom Izzo’s No. 9 Spartans come to Louisville in another big test for the Cards. Coach Chris Mack spoke to the media Monday ahead of the game, and emphasized Michigan State’s toughness.
“Everything about Michigan Sate oozes toughness,” Mack said. “I think they’ve been the gold standard. One of the programs in college basketball that’s been consistently consistent. They’re good every year. Their identity is the same every year. They’re hard-nosed, they’re going to play together and play with passion. And there’s a toughness about them on both ends of the floor.”
Mack said his team needs to be aggressive and try to slow down the Spartans, and make them earn possessions in the half court.
Something Mack said he learned in New York, was from a Jordan Nwora three-pointer that was ruled a two-pointer and not reviewed. In a closely-contested contest which went to overtime, many Card fans pointed to that three as the difference maker against Louisville. The Coach said the team will now have a manager in the back watching the game, ready to run out and alert the coaches of the need for a challenge in similar situations in the future.
“It’s tough, that play didn’t win or lose the game,” Mack said. “I know everybody says we would’ve been up by one. But the game would’ve been played differently. Having said that, do I wish they would’ve gotten right? Sure.”
Another thing Mack said he learned his own team needed after the trip to New York, was consistency.
“Finding the ability to be consistent is what we’re searching for," Mach said. “Both individually, and as a team."
Mack said he liked what he saw from grad transfer Christen Cunningham in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
“I thought CC played a whale of a game against Marquette,” Mack said. “I think he did a terrific job of being aggressive, but at the same time not being reckless. I thought he did a really good job on both ends of the floor. The CC we saw against Marquette is who we need him to be.”
Cunningham also spoke on Monday and said the team knows there’s room for improvement from the 0-2 trip to Brooklyn.
“We did some good things, but not enough,” Cunningham said. “I think we realized we don’t focus enough on the little things that it takes to be a good team and to close out games against other good teams. We see some bright spots from the trip to New York. But overall, we’re not pleased with how we’re playing.”
The Cards will look to improve Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.