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Struggling 1-4 Louisville goes back to square 1; prepares for Sparty

The Cardinals travel to East Lansing to battle the No. 19/20 Spartans in the B1G/ACC Challenge. Louisville hopes to crash the Sparty party.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

East Lansing, MI -- The Cardinals have a tall task ahead as they face No. 19/20 Michigan State. The Cardinals and the Spartans battle for the third time in school history as a part of the B1G/ACC Challenge.

To say the Cardinals have struggled the first few weeks of the season would be an understatement. The team, packed with five star recruits and All Americans, has struggled to find an identity.

The Cardinals began the season placed eighth in both the USA Today and AP Polls. However, after four heartbreaking upsets, the Cardinals have fallen from grace. But there's nothing more dangerous than a Cardinal with a chip on her shoulder (just ask the 2013 Baylor Bears).

Soaring Sophomores

Starting the season 1-4, the Cardinals have shown bursts of greatness. However, the trip to Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase seems to have solidified the team.

"We made a lot of progress," Coach Jeff Walz said Tuesday evening on his weekly radio show. "We played harder in three straight games."

In the showcase, it was sophomores, Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen who rose to the occasion. Mariya Moore led the Cardinals with 23 points in the disheartening loss to Dayton. Moore has scored double digits for the Cardinals in four out of the five games played. Myisha Hines-Allen averaged 18 points a game during the Gulf Coast Showcase, including an impressive season high 20 points against Dayton. Hines-Allen's stellar performance earned her one of five spots on the Gulf Coast Showcase All-Tournament Team.

Breaking Down the Defense

The Louisville Cardinals are known for pressure defense and forcing turnovers. Defense is something the Louisville Basketball teams, both men and women, focus on. However, this season the defense has been a little lackluster.

"It's the worst defense we've had in nine years," Coach Walz said Tuesday evening.

The Cardinals are allowing their opponents to shoot 46.4% from the field. In other words, the opponents are making every other basket. The Cardinals are shooting 37.3% on offense. It doesn't take a math genius to see the lack of defense is hurting the Cardinals.

However, Coach Walz is a man with a plan. In his weekly radio show, Coach Walz admitted to trusting the girls too much when it comes to their basketball knowledge.

So what's Coach Walz's plan??

"We're going back to square one."

Scouting Sparty

The Michigan State Spartans (4-1) are holding opponents to 58.4 points per game, 35.3% shooting. In a phenomenal performance against No. 4 Baylor, the Spartans held the highly touted Bears scoreless until the 4:05 mark of the first period. The Spartans outscored the Bears in both the first and third periods. Junior guard, Tori Jankoska led Michigan State with 23 points, while redshirt sophomore Branndais Agee and junior Aerial Powers each put up 16 points, respectively. But it was Baylor who emerged victorious, defeating Michigan State, 84-76.

Keys for Success

The Cardinals will have to play tough on defense and force turnovers. The Spartans are averaging 15.4 turnovers, while the Cardinals are forcing 22 turnovers a game. Louisville needs to capitalize on the turnovers by putting points on the board. The Spartans are averaging 80.4 points per game this season. The Cardinals need to attack the glass.

If the Cardinals can play tough on defense and make shots, they may crash the Sparty party.