Men's College Basketball
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            === Weary Cardinals return home to battle Red Storm ===
 Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Hoping to keep pace in the race for the Big
 East Conference regular-season title, the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals
 entertain the St. John's Red Storm on Thursday night at KFC Yum! Center.
 St. John's was quietly having a very solid season, at one point winning five
 straight Big East bouts to climb to 14-7 overall and 6-3 in conference, but
 losses in two of its last three games has tempered enthusiasm a bit. Still,
 the Red Storm aren't a team to be taken lightly even though it is 2-3 against
 ranked opponents this season, both victories coming against Big East rivals
 (Cincinnati and Notre Dame) in January.
 Louisville had been cruising along with a 16-1 record, but a narrow loss at
 home to Syracuse on Jan. 19 started a trend that would see the team drop three
 straight and four of its last seven to wind up at its 19-5 overall record and
 7-4 league ledger, the latter of which has the team just a game back of first
 place in the Big East. The Cardinals' most recent bout turned into the longest
 in both school and Big East history, as they came out on the short end of a
 104-101 decision in a five-overtime war at Notre Dame last Saturday. That epic
 battle aside, UofL is happy to be back home where it has logged an 11-1 record
 this season.
 Louisville owns a 10-4 lead in the all-time series with St. John's, and the
 Cardinals have won two of the last three meetings.
 St. John's averages roughly the same number of points (68.0 ppg) as it allows
 (66.8 ppg), and the team comes in on the negative side of the rebounding
 ledger (-3.5), but in the black with respect to turnover margin (+2.9). The
 Red Storm is hitting 43 percent of its total shots, while permitting just a
 39.5 percent success rate to its opponents. The 3-pointer hasn't fallen nearly
 as often as head coach Steve Lavin would like, in fact SJU ranks next-to-last
 in the Big East in that category at a mere 30.0 percent. The team is dead last
 in free-throw percentage (.643), and is one of only four clubs in the
 conference currently sporting a negative rebounding differential (-3.5).
 D'Angelo Harrison has done his part to help the team succeed, ranking third in
 the league in scoring with his 18.3 ppg, and JaKarr Sampson is the only other
 double-digit scorer with 14.8 ppg, and he heads the team's rebounding effort
 with 6.6 rpg. Sampson was high man for the Storm with 21 points, Harrison
 tacked on 13 and Phil Greene IV had 10, but those efforts went for naught as
 Syracuse prevailed in a 77-58 final last Sunday in the most recent outing for
 the club. The Orange shot 53.7 percent from the floor, nailing twice as many
 treys as the Red Storm (10-5).
 Louisville ranks in the top-five in the Big East in both scoring offense (74.7
 ppg, second) and scoring defense (59.1 ppg, fifth), giving it the third-best
 scoring margin (+15.6). The team boasts three double-digit point producers,
 with Russ Smith currently ranking second in the conference at 18.3 ppg, while
 Chane Behanan (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Peyton Siva (10.3 ppg, 6.0 apg)
 contribute on a nightly basis, as does Gorgui Dieng (9.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 44
 blocks). The Cardinals are allowing their opponents to shoot just 39.7 percent
 from the field, and they are +4.8 in rebounding margin and +6.3 in turnover
 differential, the team goading foes into 19 miscues per outing, which is far
 and away the top figure in the league. A total of three Cardinals logged
 double-doubles in the marathon loss to Notre Dame, led by Behanan's 30-point,
 15-rebound effort. Smith (21 points, 10 boards) and Dieng (17 points, 13
 rebounds) had impressive outings, as did Luke Hancock, who tallied 22 points
 off the bench. Neither team shot the ball all that well, the Cards doing so at
 40.7 percent and the Irish 41.6 percent, and both were equally ineffective
 from long range, combining to go just 12-of-50 on 3-point attempts (.240).
 02/14 11:18:12 ET

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