Gardner-Webb (6-7) at (20) Louisville (8-1)
Saturday, December 18th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: KFC Yum! Center (22,000) -- Louisville, Kentucky. Television: Big East Net. Home Record: Gardner-Webb 2-0, Louisville 8-1. Away Record: Gardner-Webb 2-7, Louisville 0-0. Neutral Record: Gardner-Webb 2-0, Louisville 0-0. Conference Record: Gardner-Webb 1-1, Louisville 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 20th-ranked Louisville Cardinals are fresh off a disappointing defeat, and they are eager to get back to action this afternoon against the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs.
With losses in three consecutive games, Gardner-Webb has fallen to 6-7 overall, including 2-7 in true road affairs. The Runnin' Bulldogs have been idle since last Saturday when they dropped a 71-48 affair against Arizona State. A member of the Big South Conference, Gardner-Webb has split its two league games to date and has yet to face a team as talented a Louisville.
Speaking of the Cardinals, they were obvious favorites heading into Tuesday's clash with Drexel at home. Unfortunately for head coach Rick Pitino, his team put forth a miserable offensive effort and fell to the Dragons by a 52-46 final. Louisville was a perfect 8-0 heading into that affair, and all nine games thus far have been played at home. The schedule has been extremely soft to this point for the Cardinals, who face many tough challenges from Big East Conference opponents ahead.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Gardner-Webb and Louisville on the hardwood.
Gardner-Webb will have a tough time winning games the rest of the season, as the team lost leading scorer Jon Moore indefinitely to an injury last weekend. Moore had surgery on Wednesday, and while head coach Chris Holtmann does expect Moore to be back on the court this season, it certainly won't be anytime soon. His 15.5 ppg will be difficult to replace, especially considering the fact that there isn't another double-digit scorer in the fold. Stefon Johnson is posting 9.2 ppg, but it is unclear if he is capable of being a go-to scorer. The Runnin' Bulldogs are scoring 66.0 ppg, slightly less than they are allowing (66.7 ppg), but they were completely stifled offensively in the ugly loss to Arizona State last weekend. Gardner-Webb shot a mere 30.4 percent from the field in that clash and turned the ball over 17 times. A 40-34 rebounding advantage also hurt the cause for the Runnin' Bulldogs, who got 11 points from Moore before he exited with the injury.
It is hard to imagine Louisville playing a worse offensive game all season than it did against Drexel last time out. The Cardinals made good on a mere 31.9 percent of their field goal attempts, including a 4-of-16 showing from three-point range. They also had four more turnovers than assists and misfired on 13 of their 25 free throws. As if those reasons weren't enough to lead to the loss, Louisville was also outrebounded by a 46-26 count. Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva both tallied 13 points in the setback to pace the Cardinals, who are generating 78.8 ppg this season while allowing only 58.9 ppg to opponents on 36 percent field goal efficiency. The defensive-minded Cardinals are paced at the offensive end by Knowles' 12.4 ppg, while Siva is close behind with 11.1 ppg. Louisville has forced 172 turnovers in nine games, an average of just over 19 per contest.
The Cardinals will overwhelm Gardner-Webb and have a victory wrapped up by intermission. Expect a balanced offensive attack and smothering defense from the home team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 76, Gardner-Webb 52
12/18 10:35:02 ET