Louisiana (6-2) at (7) Louisville (7-1)
Saturday, December 7, 1 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: KFC Yum! Center (22,090) -- Louisville, Kentucky. Television: WHAS. Home Record: Louisiana 3-0, Louisville 6-0. Away Record: Louisiana 2-2, Louisville 0-0. Neutral Record: Louisiana 1-0, Louisville 1-1. Conference Record: Louisiana 0-0, Louisville 0-0. Series Record: Louisville leads, 8-0.
GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Louisville Cardinals continue a five-game homestand on Saturday with a non-conference contest with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at the KFC Yum! Center.
The Ragin' Cajuns are riding a bit of momentum into this matchup after winning their last four games. The winning streak included a 89-80 victory over Louisiana Tech and has elevated Louisiana to 6-2 on the year. However, the Ragin' Cajuns are just 2-2 in road games. Louisiana will host Houston next.
Louisville had no trouble last time on the floor as it easily ran past UMKC, 90-62, on Wednesday night. The win was the second-straight for the Cardinals after they were upset by North CArolina during the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Louisville is 7-1 overall and a sparkling 6-0 at home. Louisville finishes the current homestand with battles against Western Kentucky and Missouri State.
In eight all-time meetings between these two teams, Louisville has come out on top each time. The most recent edition occurred during the 2009-10 season when the Cardinals claimed an 84-69 triumph.
Led by double-doubles from Shawn Long (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Elfrid Payton (17 points, 10 rebounds) and 22 points off the bench from Kasey Shepherd, the Ragin' Cajuns were able to slip by Louisiana Tech. Louisiana had advantages from the free-throw line (22-12) and on second-chance points (23-12) that proved to be the difference.
The Ragin' Cajuns can score as well as just about any team in the country as they net 84.4 points per game and connect on 47.5 percent of their attempts from the floor. Louisiana also does great work on the boards, averaging 40.6 rebounds per game. Payton (19.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5 apg, 2.5 spg) certainly helps on the glass, but his ability to stuff the stat sheet makes him much more than a one-dimensional contributor. Payton bounced back from a season-low seven point outing in the previous game with his double-double against Louisiana Tech. Shawn Long (20.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 3.1 bpg) leads the team in scoring and rebounding and can also protect the rim.
The Cardinals made up for a rather week shooting night against UMKC by playing with their normal defensive intensity. Louisville forced 20 turnovers and turned those in for 29 points, while netting just 42.9 percent of their shots from the field. The Cardinals also had 20 more points in the paint (44-24) and 20 more rebounds (49-29) than the Kangaroos.
Rick Pitino's squad is always strong defensively. The Cardinals are fourth in the nation in steals (11.1 pg) and ninth in opponent scoring average (58.6 ppg). The Cardinals don't make many mistakes themselves as they own the 15th- best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.58) in the country. The Cardinals have an extremely deep roster led by Russ Smith (17.8 ppg, 4.8 apg), who has grown as a passer this season, while still managing to be the most dangerous scoring threat. Chris Jones (14.4 ppg, 2.2 spg) plays well on both ends, while Montrezl Harrell (12.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg) has been living up to the immense potential he showed during the Cardinals' run to the national title a year ago.
There are certainly a lot of things to like about Louisiana, especially the play of Payton and Long. However, against a juggernaut like Louisville on the road the Ragin' Cajuns are facing an uphill battle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 78, Louisiana 66
12/07 10:38:47 ET