Men's College Basketball
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        === Bluegrass State showdown pits Wildcats against Cardinals ===
 
 Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Bitter rivals square off on Saturday
 afternoon, as the Kentucky Wildcats come calling on the fourth-ranked
 Louisville Cardinals.
 
 It is the first meeting between the two since Kentucky posted a 69-61 win in
 the NCAA Championship Semifinals in New Orleans last March.
 
 After defeating the Cardinals in that Final Four matchup, Kentucky went on to
 win the national title. However, the 2012-13 season hasn't gone quite
 according to the way head coach John Calipari and Big Blue Nation had hoped,
 as the team has already lost more games (three) than it did all of last season
 (two). The Wildcats, who had to retool following the mass exodus of its top
 players after the championship run, opened this new campaign with wins in four
 of its first five games, but then dropped two-in-row to fall completely out of
 the Top-25. To their credit, the 'Cats have rallied to win four straight,
 although beating up on the likes of Samford, Portland, Lipscomb and Marshall
 isn't likely to curry much favor with the voters.
 
 UK has one more non-league game scheduled (vs. Eastern Michigan next
 Wednesday) before opening SEC action at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10.
 
 Rick Pitino's Louisville squad comes into this clash with a near-perfect 11-1
 record, the team's lone setback coming in a 76-71 loss to Duke on Nov. 24 in
 the title tile of the Battle 4 Atlantis event in the Bahamas. Since that time,
 the Cardinals have reeled off six straight victories, the most recent of which
 occurred last Saturday at home against Western Kentucky (78-55).
 
 This is UofL's final non-conference game on the schedule, as the team will
 kick off another daunting Big East slate against visiting Providence next
 Wednesday.
 
 Kentucky has more than doubled up Louisville in the all-time series, 30-14,
 and the 'Cats have won the last four meetings.
 
 The Wildcats have performed well at both ends of the court this season,
 averaging 78.5 ppg while permitting just 61.1 ppg. They are hitting 49 percent
 of their field goal attempts, which includes a 35.6 percent effort from 3-
 point range, while limiting the opposition to 37.7 percent overall success and
 32.4 percent efficiency from beyond the arc. Kentucky boasts four double-digit
 scorers, with Archie Goodwin's 16.0 ppg representing the team's high-water
 mark. Alex Poythress is next with 14.5 ppg, while Kyle Wiltjer adds 11.4 ppg
 and Noel Nerlens another 10.7 ppg. Nerlens grabs a club-best 9.1 rpg, helping
 UK stake claim to a +4.3 edge on the glass. The team is +3.1 in turnover
 margin. Goodwin scored 18 points and Nerlens notched a double-double with 11
 points and 10 boards, but it was Ryan Harrow who made the most of his time on
 the court as he scored 23 points to lead the Wildcats to their recent rout of
 Marshall. Kentucky got off to a slow start (.351 FG percentage in the first
 half), but turned it on after the break by making good on 50 percent of its
 field goal tries. While Calipari's club went just 3-of-17 from long range, it
 committed only nine turnovers. The Thundering Herd shot just 29.5 percent from
 the floor.
 
 Louisville has been even better this season than Kentucky, scoring 78.1 ppg
 while yielding a scant 55.5 ppg. The Cardinals, who have four double-digit
 scorers on the roster, force an average of 21.4 turnovers per game, and they
 lead the nation in turnover margin (+8.6). Russ Smith is netting 19.7 ppg and
 he also leads the team in steals with 34, while Peyton Siva (11.4 ppg, 6.3
 apg), Chane Behanan (10.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Wayne Blackshear (10.0 ppg, 4.2
 rpg) have all had a hand in the team's early run of success. Smith poured in
 20 points, Blackshear finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, Behanan
 tallied 14 points and seven boards, and Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to
 contribute 13 points, six caroms and four blocks, all of which the Cardinals
 used to throttle Western Kentucky last week by 23 points. Louisville was an
 efficient 50.9 percent from the field, while holding the Hilltoppers to 38.8
 percent accuracy. WKU was guilty of 20 turnovers in the contest, off which the
 Cardinals scored 26 points.
 
 
 
 12/29 10:53:41 ET

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