Kenny Payne still is looking for that magical initial win at his alma mater.
Louisville (0-7) aims to reward its coach for the first time this season when it hosts Miami (7-1) on Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both squads in Louisville, Ky.
The Cardinals started the season with one-point losses to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State. After that, Louisville was routed by three Top-25 teams and Cincinnati.
The Cardinals’ most recent loss was a 79-54 decision to Maryland on Tuesday.
Payne, a 56-year-old former Louisville star, had some damning words for his players after that contest.
“We did not compete. We did not fight. We didn’t meet their intensity,” Payne said. “At times, it looked like we gave up. I asked the guys if that was the case: ‘Have you given up?'”
El Ellis, who leads Louisville in points (16.9) and assists (3.4), said his teammates answered the coach.
“We told him no,” Ellis said. “We’re going through a rough time, but that doesn’t mean we will quit.”
Aside from Ellis, no other Louisville player is averaging double-digit scoring per game this season.
Meanwhile, Miami has a top-heavy roster that has balanced scoring and a rotation that primarily runs just six deep.
Miami’s top three scorers are Norchad Omier (13.9), Jordan Miller (13.8) and Isaiah Wong (13.8). The other two starters are Nijel Pack (12.4) and Wooga Poplar (8.1).
The sixth man is Bensley Joseph, who is averaging 5.8 points and 2.5 assists.
“(Joseph) brings a lot of energy,” Wong said. “He can guard one through four.”
Miami’s regular rotation includes nobody taller than the 6-7 Omier, who is averaging a team-high 10.4 rebounds, including 4.8 on offense.
The Hurricanes have played a relatively soft schedule so far, but they are coming off a 68-61 win over Rutgers on Wednesday. That was Miami’s first win this season over a team from a Power Five conference.
Miami rallied from an 11-point deficit to defeat the Scarlet Knights. The Hurricanes shot just 1-for-9 on 3-pointers in the first half before making 5 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc in the second.
“We’re not the biggest team,” Miller said. “But I think we’re a great shooting team. It’s just a matter of time before they start falling.”
–Field Level Media