|Louisville braces for 'big' challenge against WKU|
Louisville coach Chris Mack went literary to emphasize the importance of rebounding when his Cardinals host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and 6-foot-11 center Charles Bassey on Tuesday night.
While the Cardinals (3-0) pulled away in the second half to defeat visiting Prairie View A&M 86-64 on Sunday, they barely won the battle on the boards, 34-29.
If they don't do better on Tuesday, "We'll look like 'Gulliver's Travels,' all the Lilliputians around the basketball when (Bassey is) metal-eating around the rim," Mack said.
Louisville is missing several players due to injury, including their own 6-11 center, Malik Williams, who is recovering from foot surgery. Samuell Williamson, a 6-7 center, is day-to-day with a dislocated toe, Mack said.
Carlik Jones is leading the way offensively for the Cardinals at 17 points per game, shooting 48.6 percent from the field. Backcourt mate David Johnson is at 10.7 ppg after scoring 19 points against Prairie View.
Johnson's success came because he was able to keep his composure against the "frenetic" Panthers, who try to speed the game up, Mack said.
"David, when he slows down, he's so much of a better player, so much more effective," Mack said. "When he was good, whether it was posting, whether it was getting into the lane and just rising up and using his size, he was really good."
Bassey is "really good" as well, Mack said, who jokingly added he "tried to do my best over the offseason to talk Charles into moving to the NBA, but he wouldn't do it. So, we're going to have to contend with one of the best frontcourt players in the entire country on Tuesday night."
Bassey is averaging 15.7 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Hilltoppers (2-1), the preseason favorites to win Conference USA.
Western Kentucky is coming off a 70-64 loss to West Virginia in the championship game of the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Bassey, a junior who was named to the preseason All-CUSA Team, had team highs of 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks for the Hilltoppers despite playing only 19 minutes with foul trouble. He and Taveion Hollingsworth, also a preseason first-teamer, missed part of the game with minor injuries, though both returned.
Forward Carson Williams, who is averaging 9.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in a starting role for Western Kentucky, said that hanging tough with West Virginia only reinforced what "we already knew, how good we can be this year."
"The fight we put up against them and the other teams we've played throughout this tournament just shows what we have the opportunity to do this year," Williams said.
Western Kentucky knocked off Northern Iowa and Memphis, each by six points, in earlier games of the tourney.
--Field Level Media