(6) Louisville (8-1) at Memphis (6-2)
Saturday, December 15, 2:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: FSN. Home Record: Louisville 5-0, Memphis 5-0. Away Record: Louisville 1-0, Memphis 0-0. Neutral Record: Louisville 2-1, Memphis 1-2. Conference Record: Louisville 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Series Record: Louisville leads, 52-34.
GAME NOTES: Two teams riding four-game winning streaks will collide on Saturday afternoon at FedExForum when the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals battle the Memphis Tigers.
After a 99-47 dismantling of UMKC last time out, Louisville posted its second four-game winning streak of the season. The Cardinals are 8-1 overall this season with the lone loss coming in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament against now No. 2 Duke (76-71). Louisville has played only one true road game this year which ended in an 80-38 romp over the College of Charleston. Louisville will be back home to face FIU in its next game.
After taking back-to-back losses to VCU and Minnesota as part of the same Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Memphis has turned it on of late. The Tigers routed Austin Peay 83-65 in the third game of their current seven-game homestand to earn their fourth consecutive victory. Memphis is now 6-2 overall this season including a perfect 5-0 on its home floor. The stretch of home games continues for Memphis next against Lipscomb.
Louisville has won the last three meetings between these squads including a 95-87 victory last season. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 52-34 but are just 15-22 against the Tigers in Memphis.
There wasn't much doubt for Louisville in its win over UMKC, as the Cardinals raced out on a 14-2 run to open the game while going on to lead 53-28 at the break. The Cardinals' 52-point margin of victory was the largest of the year, as Louisville shot at a 56.1 percent clip, while hitting 8-of-18 shots from beyond the arc. Louisville hounded UMKC on defense and limited the Kangaroos to just 26.9 percent shooting, including just four field goals in the final 20 minutes. Russ Smith had another stellar game, as he poured in 31 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists in the lopsided win.
Smith has been on another level this season. The junior guard has been piling up the points, scoring 20.3 points per game. He has scored at least 20 points in four games this season and has had at lest 14 field-goal attempts in eight of nine contests. Louisville is even further strengthened in the backcourt with point guard Peyton Siva (10.9 ppg, 5.7 apg). Siva is less of a scorer but really runs Rick Pitino's offense well. Gorgui Dieng (8.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) has missed the last four games with a broken left wrist and will miss this contest as well. In his place, Chane Behanan (8.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Wayne Blackshear (8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg) have stepped up. Even without Dieng on the floor Louisville has been a fantastic defensive squads, allowing only 53.1 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting. Even more impressive is that the Cardinals are still holding a +8.9 edge in rebounding without the contributions of Dieng on the glass. Louisville scores 77.0 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting itself on the offensive end.
Memphis also had a fairly easy go of it in its last game. The Tigers shot 52.1 percent and led by double digits for the entire second half against Austin Peay. Memphis continually pounded the ball inside, scoring 66 points in the paint. The Tigers forced an astounding 28 turnovers and scored 33 points off of those miscues. Memphis' bench also outscored the Austin Peay counterparts 57-7. Tarik Black scored 18 points and brought down six rebounds off the bench to pace the team.
Although not as defensively dominant as Louisville, Memphis has still produced well on both ends of the floor this season. The Tigers are scoring 74.8 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and have been outscoring opponents by 10.2 points per game. Memphis also does a solid job on the boards by bringing in 37.5 rebounds per game while holding a +7.3 edge on the glass. Memphis has been a pesky team defensively collecting 9.9 steals per game which is the 22nd best mark nationally. There isn't one explosive scorer for Memphis with the team relying more on a balanced attack,. Geron Johnson (11.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.4 apg) missed the first three games of the season but has come on to be the team's leading scorer, while playing off the bench. Adonis Thomas (10.9 ppg), Joe Jackson (10.6 ppg) and Black (10.4 ppg) are all scoring in double figures as well. Shaq Goodwin (8.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is the top rebounder for the Tigers.
This game will be a much more challenging road test than Louisville's first foray away from home. However with Smith and Siva running the show the Cardinals should be able to keep Louisville out in front while the Cardinals' strong defensive efforts slow down the Tigers on the other end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 79, Memphis 73
12/15 10:41:25 ET