Louisville, Ky. — Michigan had no shortage of confidence heading into Tuesday night’s top-five matchup against Louisville.
So much so that sophomore guard David DeJulius said he was glad Louisville was the top-ranked team in the nation — as opposed to being No. 2 or No. 3 in the rankings — because it gave the No. 4 Wolverines a shot to dethrone the Cardinals and take over the top spot.
“Oh, for sure,” DeJulius said Monday. “We want it all. We want all the smoke.”
Word of DeJulius’ remark made its way to the Cardinals’ locker room and junior forward Jordan Nwora referenced it following Louisville’s 58-43 win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
"I was feeling good,” Nwora said when asked about the level of excitement he displayed late in the game. “We had heard they wanted some smoke yesterday, so they got some smoke and they got smoked.
“It's what happens. They were talking. We were able to quiet it up a little bit and now we've got to focus on the next game."
For those unfamiliar with the slang term "smoke," Louisville's Lamarr Kimble provided an explanation.
"When somebody says, 'We want all the smoke,' it's basically they're ready for anything, they're ready to take us on," Kimble said. "Michigan players were saying that they were ready to face us and whatever we had to bring, they were going to get past that and get the win. They were talking into existence a win, and we're not about that here. We're about getting on the floor and playing, and we showed that for 40 minutes."
Nwora noted everyone on the team has Twitter and they found out about DeJulius’ comment after people started sending it to the Louisville players on social media.
Apparently it even spread to Louisville's PA announcer, who thanked the packed crowd for "bringing all the smoke" after the final horn sounded.
Nwora added while it’s “all fun and games,” the Cardinals “took it all in” and used DeJulius' statement as an added bit of motivation.
“It was good to see,” said Nwora, who led Louisville with 22 points and 12 rebounds. “None of us are going to talk about anything before the game. We're just going to settle it on the court and that's what we did. They said they wanted some smoke. We went out there and gave it to them."
Louisville coach Chris Mack had plenty of high remarks for Juwan Howard after handing him the first loss of his head-coaching career.
Mack said he was impressed with the “humility” Howard displayed to hire Phil Martelli, a former longtime head coach at Saint Joseph’s, as his top assistant. Mack noted that’s a move most coaches wouldn’t make because they would “feel like they’re getting second-guessed.”
Mack added he could see why Howard lasted as long as he did in the NBA and why Michigan had gotten off to a quick start this season.
“If you last in the league as a player for 20 years, you have high character because they weed jerks out and you have to have a mind for the game because your body breaks down,” Mack said. “You can see the respect level that his players have. They play hard for him, they've got good talent. Some guys that were role players a year ago have really stepped up and become even better players. He's doing a lot right.”
Tuesday’s meeting marked the first time Kimble squared off against Martelli, his former coach. Kimble played at Saint Joseph’s the past four seasons and landed at Louisville as a grad transfer this summer after Martelli was let go.
Before the game, the two embraced and chatted at midcourt for a few moments during warm-ups.
"It was great,” Kimble said of seeing Martelli again. “In between those lines it was a war. He knows that on that side just like I do. Before and after, we shared that love with each other. I still love him dearly. That's my coach, one of my mentors and likewise he felt the same way.
“We'll connect and end up talking for the whole rest of the season, having phone calls and things like that. That's just the relationship we have. It was good to be on the opposite and getting a win today, but that's still my guy till the end of the day."
… Michigan’s 43 points is the second-lowest total by any team in an Associated Press top-5 matchup in the shot clock era, which dates to the 1985-86 season.