Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Two of the Big East Conference's best are
set for a showdown at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday afternoon, as the 12th-
ranked Louisville Cardinals play host to the 25th-ranked Marquette Golden
Marquette recently took down USF at home on Jan. 28, 63-50, to improve to 15-4
overall and an outstanding 6-1 in Big East play. The Golden Eagles have won
eight of their last nine games to sneak into the latest AP poll, but while
they are a perfect 12-0 on their home floor, they've won just one of four true
Louisville ripped off 12-game winning streak earlier this season to improve to
16-1, which allowed it to rise all the way to No. 1 in the nation. That
distinction turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing however, as it
suffered three straight losses to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. The
Cardinals were able to snap out of the funk on Jan. 28 by logging a 64-61 home
win over Pittsburgh to improve to 5-3 in conference.
Louisville owns a 41-26 series advantage over Marquette, and while the teams
split the season series in 2011-12, the Cardinals have won seven of the last
nine meetings overall.
Marquette was able to blow past USF in its latest game thanks to an
outstanding 55.1 percent shooting effort. Vander Blue shot a lofty 13-of-20
from the field in netting a career-high 30 points, 21 of which came after
halftime, nearly outpacing the Bulls' total output in the second half (26).
Trent Lockett tallied 10 points and eight rebounds, and while Junior Cadougan
managed just two points, he handed out six assists.
The Golden Eagles have been stellar in all phases of the game this season,
shooting 46.3 percent from the field for 70.1 ppg, and holding their opponents
to 62.3 ppg on less than 40 percent shooting. They also sport positive
rebounding (+4.6) and turnover (+0.4) margins. Blue averages 14.8 ppg to pace
the squad, while Davante Gardner (12.7 ppg) is incredibly efficient from both
the field (.577) and the foul line (.848), despite coming off the bench in all
19 games. Cadougan adds 8.9 ppg and has 82 assists. One of Marquette's few
weaknesses is the 3-point shot, as its has drained just 80 long-range buckets
(4.2 pg) at a meager 29.5 percent clip.
Louisville's cold streak nearly continued last Tuesday as it saw its 11-point
lead in the second half shrink to just two in the finale minute, but it went
4-of-4 from the foul line in the final 12 seconds to seal the deal. Russ Smith
poured in 20 points, Gorgui Dieng stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 12
rebounds, five blocks and four assists, and Chane Behanan chipped in 12
points. Peyton Siva struggled mightily from the field (1-of-7), but certainly
helped the team with his 10 assists.
One of the most well-rounded teams in the nations, the Cardinals play
exceptional defense (57.9 ppg) in addition to producing at the offensive end
(74.0 ppg), although their scoring output was dwindled to just 61.8 ppg in the
last four tilts. Smith is one of the Big East's elite scorers, netting 18.4
ppg, while causing a ruckus in the passing lanes as well with 2.2 spg. Behanan
(10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Dieng (9.4 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are a formidable
frontcourt duo, while Siva is one of the top floor generals in the country
with averages of 10.5 points, 6.0 assists and 2.1 steals per contest.
The Sports Network