Rick Pitino has resorted to lying to his team about sixth-ranked Louisville's injury situation.
"Last year was bad, but this year is ridiculous," the coach said. "I just tell them I've seen this for 35 years. I'm lying. I've never seen this before."
He's also briefly contemplated putting them in pads after one player wore a helmet to practice to avoid further injury.
But thanks to their gritty defensive play, the Cardinals are 6-0. They head into their stiffest challenge of the season against No. 20 Vanderbilt on Friday night as part of the SEC-Big East challenge.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Vanderbilt (5-2) has had its share of disappointment this season already, too. After being ranked higher than Louisville in the preseason poll at seventh, the Commodores have lost games to Cleveland State on Nov. 13 and No. 11 Xavier on Monday.
The Commodores boast sharpshooter John Jenkins, who is averaging 20.2 points, but have been without center Festus Ezeli. Ezeli's six-game suspension for accepting impermissible benefits in the off-season ended against the Musketeers, but he sprained his right knee in practice and is expected to miss at least two more weeks.
While Louisville has had one of the best defenses in the country over the first four weeks of the season, the Cardinals realize they must pick up their own efforts on Friday night after a sloppy performance against Long Beach State.
"If we make the defensive lapses that we made in the second half against Vanderbilt, they'll pick us apart," Pitino said. "We know we're going to have a very, very tough game."
Murray St. 70, Western Ky. 59: Isaiah Canaan scored 18 points as Murray State kept its undefeated record intact by defeating Western Kentucky.
Canaan, MSU's leading scorer, tallied 13 of his points in the first half to lead the Racers (8-0) to a 30-26 advantage at halftime. Latreze Mushatt chipped in nine points off the bench.
MSU charged out of the locker room in the second half, building a 46-30 lead after just three minutes.
Western Kentucky (2-6) answered as Jamal Crook scored 18 of his game-leading 20 points in the second half. The Hilltoppers pulled within three points with 9:39 remaining in the game but faded.
Providence 76, South Carolina 67: LaDontae Henton had 18 points and Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman had 16 points each as Providence pulled away late to defeat South Carolina in the Big East-SEC Challenge.
The Friars (6-2) used a 14-4 run late in the second half that featured a four-point play from Bryce Cotton to take control.
The Gamecocks (2-5) had cut an 11-point lead down to 51-47 on Brian Richardson's three-point play with 8:54 to go when Providence got going. Coleman started the clinching rally with a pair of foul shots before Cotton struck for a three-pointer and was fouled by Anthony Gill.
Kent St. 83, Morehead St. 63: Justin Manns scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 17 minutes of playing time to help Kent State beat visiting Morehead State.
Morehead State (3-5) tied the game 24-all with a Terrance Hill three-pointer, but Kent State used an 8-4 run to take a 36-28 lead into halftime. The run continued as Kent State scored the first six points of the second half, jumping out to a 14-point lead at 42-28.
Senior Ty Proffitt led Morehead State with 13 points.
Senior Lamont Austin and junior Kahlil Owens added 11 points apiece for the Eagles, while junior Marsell Holden contributed 10.
Owens, who entered the contest with just five points in seven games this season, made all five of his field-goal attempts. He also pulled down five rebounds.
Pikeville 73, Cumberlands 57: Senior guard Chris McHenry scored nine points as Pikeville broke open a 44-all game with a 15-3 run to win at Cumberlands.
McHenry, a 5-11 point guard from Milwaukee, began the run with a three from the right wing with 8:05 left in the game. McHenry's last basket made it 59-47 with 5:09 to play.
The win for the Bears (7-2) ended a two-game losing streak.
For Cumberlands, it was the first loss in eight games this season.
No. 7 Duke 64, No. 13 Purdue 53: Haley Peters scored 14 points to help Duke turn back visiting Purdue.
Chloe Wells added 13 points and Chelsea Gray had 11 for the Blue Devils (5-1), who finished with a 50-32 rebound margin. Duke won for the 50th time in 51 home games, extending its school-record winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 27 games.
Courtney Moses scored 17 points to lead Purdue (6-1), which fell to 0-5 all time in the ACC Big Ten Challenge. Brittany Rayburn added 16 points for the Boilermakers.