Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals open a
four-game road trip on Saturday evening, as they invade south Florida to take
on the FIU Panthers at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
The defending national champion Cardinals, who are playing their first
official road game of the season tonight, have run out to a 10-1 start,
although their 90-62 rout of Missouri is really their only quality win thus
far. Louisville's other game of note took place in Uncasville, CT on Nov. 24,
but that one resulted in the team's only loss of the season as it dropped a
93-84 decision to North Carolina. UofL will play at intrastate rival Kentucky
next Saturday, and then will kick off its inaugural American Athletic
Conference slate at UCF on New Year's Eve.
FIU has won twice as many games as it has lost to this points in the season,
going 8-4, which includes a 5-1 mark at home. The Panthers opened the season
0-2, but went on a six-game win streak before alternating setbacks with
victories in the last four. FIU has been idle for the past two weeks, its last
action resulting in a 72-61 triumph over visiting Florida Gulf Coast.
Following this clash, the Panthers will play two more non-league games before
lifting the lid on Conference USA play at Rice on Jan. 9.
Louisville leads the all-time series with FIU, 2-0, reaching that point by
virtue of its 79-55 win at home last December.
The Cardinals rank in the top-15 nationally in scoring, putting up 86.3 ppg by
knocking down 47.5 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 34.1
percent showing from 3-point range. The team could stand to improve its
accuracy at the foul line (.659), but a +8.3 rebounding margin coupled with
the nation's No. 1 turnover margin (+9.4) almost assures it of securing an
unparalleled level of success. Not to be outdone, Louisville's effort at the
defensive end allows foes to net a mere 60.5 ppg behind typical shooting
outputs of .399 overall and .328 from beyond the arc. The Cards commit the
fewest turnovers of any team in Division I (9.1 per game), while at the same
time ranking fifth in the country in steals (9.8 per tilt). Russ Smith (16.6
ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.2 apg) heads a list of four double-digit scorers for coach
Rick Pitino's club, as he is joined by Chris Jones (14.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg),
Montrezl Harrell (12.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Wayne Blackshear (10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg).
Harrell scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Cardinals in
their 90-60 win over visiting Missouri State on Tuesday night. Blackshear,
Smith and Terry Rozier each tacked on 11 points for Louisville, which shot
51.5 percent from the floor while limiting the Bears to only 37.9 percent. The
Cards dominated the glass (51-30), but converted only 16-of-30 free-throw
FIU has done a number of things well here in the early going, as the team
averages 72.3 ppg while allowing 66.1 ppg. The Panthers are shooting 46.9
percent from the floor, while permitting the opposition just a 39.7 percent
success rate. The team does an outstanding job corralling loose balls, as it
ranks fourth in the nation in total rebounds (493), while its 60 blocked shots
is second-most in C-USA. Leading the way for FIU is Tymell Murphy with his
16.3 ppg, although Rakeem Buckles is nipping at his heels with 14.7 ppg.
Buckles gets it done in other areas as well, as his league-leading 10.5 rpg
has him the rare company of guys who are averaging a double-double this far
into the season.
In the 11-point win over Florida Gulf Coast two weeks ago, Buckles notched his
sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 boards, while Dennis
Mavin matched his career high with 19 points. Murphy led all scorers with 23
points, hitting all 10 of his foul shots in the process. FIU won the game due
in large part to a 22-5 edge in points from the charity stripe.
The Sports Network