What began Tuesday night as opportunity for No. 1 Louisville turned into a coronation as the newly-minted top team in college basketball strutted its way to a 58-43 win over No. 4 Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It was Louisville's first major test of the season, first tilt against a ranked opponent, and one in which it never labored with down the stretch.
The Cardinals (8-0) jumped on the visiting Wolverines (7-1) early, building their lead to as many as 15 in the first half and 16 in the second half before running out the clock late. They never trailed.
Louisville's top-20 offense has been the catalyst to its hot start this season, but Tuesday it was the defense that stood tall. It forced 10 turnovers, limited Michigan to 25.9% shooting from the floor and 15.8% shooting from 3-point range, and squeezed the life out of a Michigan offense that was scoring 82.4 points per game this season. On this night, it appeared the combination of that stingy defense and Michigan's sluggish night -- perhaps the ill effects of recent travel from a trip to the Bahamas -- was a recipe for a Louisville crowning on a huge stage.
Cardinals junior Jordan Nwora led the big night for Chris Mack's team with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Steven Enoch added 13 points. On the other end of the court, Jon Teske, with 18 points, was the only Michigan player to finish in double figures. Players not named Jon Teske for Michigan shot a grotesque 9-of-40 (22.5%) from the field and 2-of-15 (13.3%) from beyond the 3-point line.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Michigan was flat: This isn't to take away from Louisville's win -- Louisville played well. But Michigan played like a team that spent its past week playing three games in three nights in the Bahamas, two of which were against top-10 quality teams. Even with its last game coming on Friday, perhaps this letdown spot should have been more predictable.
2. Louisville's defense is legitimate: It was clear from the jump that Louisville's primary game plan on defense was to push the shots outside the paint and make Michigan win with touch. Michigan responded by shooting a season-low from the field (25.9%) and from the 3-point line (15.8%).
"They're the No. 1 team in the country," UM coach Juwan Howard put it succinctly after the game. "We're not making excuses, but they're good. They're good for a reason."
3. Don't overreact to one result. Michigan spent its past week kicking everyone's tail in the Bahamas convincingly. This team is top-10 quality and should continue to be top-10 quality all season. This was just a dud-of-a-showing. It happens. Conversely, let's not crown Louisville just yet. This team played Akron close at home a week ago. It's a massive win for the program and for its overall resume, but it's also the team's first win over a ranked opponent thus far. More proving is in order. No doubt a loaded ACC slate -- and upcoming nonconference games against Texas Tech and Kentucky -- will be big tests.