By LARRY VAUGHT
Sporting News senior writer Mike DeCourcy thinks 6-7 Louisville junior forward Jordan Nwora could be a matchup nightmare for the Wildcats in Saturday afternoon’s game in Rupp Arena.
“It’s easy to forget what a magnificent job P.J. Washington did on Nwora in last year’s game because you look back at the box (score) and Jordan had 17 points, which was more or less his average,” DeCourcy said. “But it took 7-of-17 shooting to get there, and he made only one 3-pointer. P.J. had four blocks in that game. His defense was massive.
“Kentucky doesn’t have anyone like that now. Can EJ Montgomery keep up? Is Keion Brooks ready to deal with one of college basketball’s best players? Honestly, I’m not sure either of those is ideal for Kentucky, so it may be about how much help the Wildcats are able to give against him.”
Montgomery has yet to show he can stop an elite scorer. Brooks has played well at times this month but Nwora is an older, more experienced and stronger player.
For Kentucky, the biggest factor is at point guard where DeCourcy says the Cats have “one significant advantage” over Louisville.
“Louisville has three bodies they can throw at Ashton Hagans to give him different defensive challenges, but none has yet proven to be a high-level Division I point guard,” the Sporting News basketball writer said. “Hagans can help deal with the Nwora threat by making it difficult for the Cardinals’ playmakers to get him the ball.”
DeCourcy has been a Hagans fan for quite some time and that admiration has only grown this year.
“Ashton has been really smart with his offense. His game against Georgia Tech was a terrific illustration of how great his decision-making has become,” DeCourcy said. “He turned the ball over six times, so it was not a perfect game, but he missed only two shots, scored 21 points and passed for seven assists.
“Georgia Tech had no answer for him. He’s got to be great against Louisville.”