(1) Louisville (15-1) at Connecticut (12-3)
Monday, January 14, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: XL Center (16,294) -- Hartford, Connecticut. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Louisville 9-0, UConn 8-0. Away Record: Louisville 3-0, UConn 1-1. Neutral Record: Louisville 3-1, UConn 3-2. Conference Record: Louisville 3-0, UConn 2-1. Series Record: Louisville leads, 7-6.
GAME NOTES: Just two days after upsetting No. 17 Notre Dame, the Connecticut Huskies will try to topple another powerhouse in the top-ranked Louisville Cardinals, as the two teams meet in Big East Conference play at XL Center Monday night.
Since a 76-71 loss to No. 1 Duke on Nov. 24, Louisville has been absolutely rolling with wins in 11 straight games. During that stretch the Cardinals have won by double digits in eight contests, including a 64-38 rout of South Florida on Saturday. The Cardinals are also 3-0 in Big East play and have yet to lose in as many road contests. Louisville has gotten even deeper in the last few contests with the return of Gorgui Dieng who missed seven games with a wrist injury.
UConn earned its third straight victory on Saturday as the team knocked off the Fighting Irish, 65-58, at Notre Dame. The Huskies, who spent some time in the top-25 earlier in the season, are now 12-3 overall. That has included a perfect 8-0 mark at home and a 2-1 mark against Big East competition.
Last season Louisville got some revenge from the previous season when they avenged a loss in the 2011 Big East Tournament by routing UConn 80-59. With the win the Cardinals now lead the all-time series, 7-6.
The Cardinals showed just how impressive they can be defensively against USF on Saturday. Louisville collected 12 steals and held the Bulls to just 26.7 percent shooting with 12 total field goals en route to the fewest points allowed by Louisville this season.
That is certainly an accomplishment for a squad that has held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting 10 different times this season. Overall, Louisville has limited foes to just 56.3 points per game on a paltry 39.1 percent shooting. Led by Peyton Siva (11.9 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.3 spg) and Russ Smith (18.7 ppg, 2.4 spg) the Cardinals have hounded opposing backcourts, holding teams to just 9.1 assists per game, while collecting the third-most steals in the country (11.5 pg). Dieng (9.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg) is another strong defensive force on the interior with his ability to protect the rim. Dieng hasn't missed a beat since returning from the injury with a double- double in three straight contests. Smith is the third-best scorer in the conference as well as one of its best defenders. Chase Behanan (11.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is yet another solid contributor.
Connecticut held Notre Dame to less than 50 percent shooting (.429) for the first time in five games en route to the upset victory on Saturday. The Huskies shot 50.9 percent from the field themselves, while holding a 34-28 edge on the boards. The win was also the first by a visitor at Purcell Pavilion in 17 games.
The Huskies will be one of the best backcourts that Louisville will see this season led by the trio of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun. Napier (17.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.2 spg) is the focal point for UConn, as he ranks in the top 15 in the conference in points, assists and steals. Boatright (16.1 ppg, 4.5 apg) is another prolific scorer and talented distributor, while Calhoun (10.1 ppg) has been a more subdued contributor as he works as a third option for Napier and Boatright. In the frontcourt DeAndre Daniels (11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is the top option. UConn is scoring a healthy 72.5 points per game, while hitting on 46.6 percent of its shots.
If there is a team that can handle the powerful backcourt of the Huskies it is Louisville. With the Cardinals' ability to wreak havoc on the perimeter the Huskies will struggle as they don't have the personnel to match up with Louisville down low.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 74, Connecticut 64
01/14 13:19:46 ET
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