Paradise Island, Bahamas (Sports Network) - A showdown of nationally-ranked
teams is on tap for Friday night in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis
when the second-ranked Louisville Cardinals take on the 13th-ranked Missouri
Tigers at Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
The winner will play either Duke or VCU in the championship game on Saturday
night, while the losers will face off in the third place game.
Louisville advanced all the way to the Final Four last season and as a result
it came into this year with very high expectations. So far, the Cardinals have
lived up to their No. 2 ranking by winning their first three games at home and
their opening round matchup of this tournament against Northern Iowa, 51-46.
Leading up to the tournament, Missouri opened up the season on a three-game
homestand and it came away victorious in all three. In the opening round on
Thursday, the Tigers faced off against Stanford, and they were able to cling
onto a single-digit lead for the majority of the second half to hold off the
Missouri leads the all-time series over Louisville, 2-1, but the teams haven't
play one another since 1989.
The Cardinals appeared to be in great shape to run away with their opening
round matchup after they found themselves up 18 points with 12 minutes to
play, but UNI ripped off a 20-4 run to make it just a two-point game with 3:24
remaining. The ice-cold second half resulted in a lackluster shooting night
for Louisville, which made just 19-of-62 from the field, including 5-of-22
from three-point range, and committed an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers. Russ
Smith scored 16 points and chipped in five rebounds, five assists, and four
steals, but no other player scored in double digits in the nail-biter. Despite
their undefeated mark, the Cardinals have yet to live up to their shooting
potential, as they are making just over 40 percent of their shots overall on
the young season. Smith is far and away the team's top scorer (20.0 ppg), with
Wayne Blackshear next in line (9.5 ppg).
The Tigers have been able to score more than 81 ppg and outscore their
opponents by nearly a 20-point margin all despite shooting just 41.1 percent
from the floor. With a team full of talented scorers, that number is bound to
go up as the season progresses. Phil Pressey is one of the top guards in the
SEC and he's proven so in the early going by scoring 16.0 ppg. The junior is
more than just a scorer however, as he also leads the team in assists (22) and
steals (nine), while only turning the ball over 10 times. Laurence Bowers is
the Tigers' top frontcourt presence, putting up a team-high 16.3 ppg on
greater than 58 percent from the field. Earnest Ross (12.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and
Alex Oriakhi (12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) have also been strong in the early going. In
the opening round win over Stanford, Bowers (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Ross
(10 points, 11 rebounds) both tallied double-doubles, but the team shot just
36.6 percent from the field.
The Sports Network