(20) Vanderbilt (5-2) at (6) Louisville (6-0)
Friday, December 2nd, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: KFC Yum! Center (22,000) -- Louisville, Kentucky. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Vanderbilt 3-2, Louisville 5-0. Away Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Louisville 1-0. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 2-0, Louisville 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Louisville 0-0. Series Record: Louisville leads, 8-7.
GAME NOTES: The sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals will face a test at home this evening as the 20th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores come to town as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge.
Vanderbilt has already lost two games this season, and both defeats have come in front of the home crowd. On Monday, the Commodores were pushed to overtime by an outstanding Xavier squad and eventually fell by an 82-70 final. Kevin Stallings' team is now 5-2 overall and has yet to beat a top-notch opponent, though a win over Louisville would certainly qualify.
Coupled with their 8-0 start last season, the Cardinals have been 6-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1954-55 and 1955-56. The fact that they have never had consecutive 7-0 starts adds some motivation this evening for a squad that hasn't exactly faced stellar competition thus far. The only notable opponent to date for Rick Pitino's group has been Butler, which has been the national runner-up in consecutive season, but the Bulldogs are a shell of what they were a year ago. The bottom line is that Louisville has plenty to prove.
The Cardinals hold a narrow 8-7 edge over Vanderbilt in the all-time series between the teams, including a 5-2 record over the Commodores in Louisville.
There is no shortage of standout talent on the Vanderbilt roster, as the team has four double-digit scorers in the fold. John Jenkins was expected to be the most productive player in the SEC this season, so it comes as no surprise that he is posting 20.2 ppg on the strength of his 42.9 percent shooting from the field. Jeffery Taylor checks in with 15.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg, while Lance Goulbourne adds 11.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Rounding out the foursome is Brad Tinsley with 10.7 ppg for the Commodores, who are generating 75.9 ppg while surrendering 71.3 ppg to opponents. In the 12-point loss to Xavier on Monday, Vanderbilt shot 2-of-8 from the floor in overtime and didn't score a single point from the foul line in the extra frame. Jenkins had 20 points in defeat, while both Goulbourne and Taylor contributed 18 points. Clearly, a 54-33 rebounding deficit and a 20-9 disadvantage in points from the foul line did the 'Dores in.
The fact that all five projected starters for Louisville are averaging between 8.3 ppg and 12.0 ppg suggests that the team relies far more on balanced scoring than it does on the offensive exploits of one or two players. Kyle Kuric leads the Cardinals with 12.0 ppg, and Chris Smith is netting 10.5 ppg. The Cards are far from explosive offensively, as their 68.7 ppg scoring average isn't going to scare Vanderbilt, or any other opponent. What is impressive, however, is the fact that they are yielding only 49.3 ppg on 33.2 percent shooting from the floor while outrebounding foes by 6.5 rpg. On Monday, Louisville beat Long Beach State by a 79-66 final, and Smith scored 18 points in that affair to lead the way. Surprisingly, the Cardinals were outrebounded in that affair, but they did force 21 turnovers, 10 more than they committed.
Vanderbilt is far more talented than it has shown thus far. Louisville faces its first major test this evening and very well may be upset at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 74, Louisville 71
12/02 10:32:14 ET