Big East clash pits Cardinals against Panthers
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) – Big East Conference foes meet in the Steel
City tonight, as the Louisville Cardinals come calling on the seventh-ranked
Louisville comes in fresh off a 20-point win over South Florida (83-63),
snapping the team’s brief two-game skid which came on the heels of a four-game
win streak. As a result, the Cardinals are 17-8 overall and 7-4 in league play.
They currently sit in a fourth-place tie with West Virginia and every game from
here on out is crucial as teams jockey for position in the upcoming Big East
Pittsburgh stands a near-perfect 10-1 in conference, marking the team’s
best-ever start to Big East play. The Panthers, who are a stellar 22-3 on the
year and who have just one loss in 15 home games thus far, come in riding
the crest of a five-game win streak. The team, which has actually won 12 of
its last 13 games, was last in action at home versus Providence on
Saturday and the result of that tilt was a 74-68 triumph.
These two teams have met just three times previously, with the Panthers winning
Not exactly an offensive juggernaut, the Cardinals come in averaging 71.4 ppg
on 42.1 percent shooting from the field, 34.1 percent from three-point land and
67.9 percent from the free throw line. Terrence Williams and Edgar Sosa have
appeared in all 25 games this season, and they are netting 12.4 and 10.8 ppg,
respectively. Williams also serves as the team’s top glass cleaner with 7.3
rpg, while a guy like David Padgett grabs 6.2 rpg, helping take some of the
pressure off Williams and helping the team achieve the 37.3 rpg it averages.
Defensively, the Cards are allowing 63.1 ppg on typical shooting outputs of
40.6 percent overall and 32.9 percent from beyond the arc. The .406 FG
percentage allowance ranks the team 31st in the nation and it has held seven of
its last 14 foes to less than 40 percent, demonstrating their ability to play
shutdown defense when it’s called for. In Monday’s rout of South Florida, the
Cardinals got 16 points and 10 rebounds from reserve Derrick Caracter, while
Brandon Jenkins scored 15 points on the strength of four three-pointers and
Jerry Smith tallied 13 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Overall, the
Cardinals shot 51.7 percent from the floor, made good on 12-of-22 three-point
attempts, took full advantage of 20 USF turnovers and the UofL bench outscored
USF’s by a whopping 50-10 margin.
Simply put, Pittsburgh is getting it done at both ends of the floor and coach
Jamie Dixon’s squad has plenty of talent in place to make a run deep into the
NCAA Tournament. Senior center Aaron Gray is the cornerstone as the athletic
seven-footer is averaging 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He has logged
11 double-doubles this season and is coming off a 22-point, seven-carom effort
in the recent win over Providence. Mike Cook (10.4 ppg) and Antonio Graves
(10.2 ppg) round out the unit’s double-digit scorers at the moment, and Pitt is
averaging 73.2 ppg while allowing 60.9 ppg. The team owns a rebounding edge of
+5.8 while holding the opposition to less that 40 percent shooting on the year.
In addition to Gray’s performance against the Friars, Graves finished with 13
points and Cook chipped in 11. The Panthers lost the battle on the boards
(41-33), but used an 18-6 advantage in bench points coupled with 13-7 edge in
points from the foul line to earn the hard-fought victory. Gray needs just 16
points to become the 34th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point
plateau, and while that may not happen here, it won’t be for a lack of effort.