On Wednesday, Pitt and Louisville will face off at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, with both programs looking to come out on top with a conference win.
The Cardinals, led by head coach Chris Mack, come in with a 9-4 record, including 3-0 in ACC play. At 3-0 in conference play, Louisville is tied with Miami at the top of the pack in the ACC.
Mack’s squad is coming off two close victories over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. In the most recent game, against Georgia Tech, the team’s leading scorer Malik Williams posted an efficient 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
Williams, a 6-foot-11 forward/center from Fort Wayne, Indiana, will have his hands full in Wednesday’s matchup, going up against Pitt’s leading scorer and rebounder John Hugley.
“He’s a challenge,” Mack said about Hugley on Tuesday. “He’s certainly their focal point. He does a really good job. Hugley does a really good job of sealing in transition, really carving out space early. He’s a wide target, he’s got great hands.”
Malik Williams vs John Hugley will be a fun battle on Wednesday. https://t.co/HA2ZF3a34R
— Tristan Freeman (@hoopsnut351) January 3, 2022
So far, Hugley has been the main source of offense for the Panthers throughout the year. The 6-foot-9 sophomore has four games of at least 20 points and has scored in double digits in nine of 13 games.
“It’s not something that we’ve seen here the last few years, but he does extremely well,” Mack continued. “They run their offense a lot of times through him, and it ends up in a post-up. The majority of teams have tried to collapse, double, make him give it up, and he’s not a bad passer. He’s a very willing passer, he finds cutters, he finds shooters that space, so, that’s the rub. Do you want to play him single coverage, do you want to double him and sometimes create advantages for them that wouldn’t be there normally? So, we’ll probably mix it up. We have a good front court, we have multiple guys, but that doesn’t mean that the job will be any easier. It’s not something you see every day nowadays.”
The Panthers come into this one sitting at 5-8, and 0-2 in ACC play. As rocky of a start to the season as it has been for Pitt, one thing it prides itself on is its team defense. In its last seven games, Pitt has only given up more than 70 points once. In that stretch, the Panthers held their opponent to just 52, 53, and 56 points in games against Monmouth, Minnesota, and Virginia, respectively.
“Pittsburgh is playing a lot better as of late,” Mack said. “One-point game in both of their ACC losses. Jacksonville was a good win for them, so, I don’t worry about what their record is. I know who they are, how they’re playing now, and every year that I’ve been in the league, they’ve been a team that prides themselves on toughness. They show it on the glass, we talked about it on the post-ups, their defense is aggressive, and then when they spread you out, or spread themselves out in their zone, they’ve got really good length. So, they’re a very good defensive team, we’re going to have to be solid with the ball, know what our purpose is on offense, whether it’s zone or man, and execute to get a really good shot.”
The game is set to tip off at 7 p.m. from Louisville and is going to be televised on ESPNU.