A couple of Big East Conference squads pay their respects on Martin Luther King Day the best way they know how as the Louisville Cardinals and the Marquette Golden Eagles get together for a special Monday afternoon matchup at the Bradley Center.
Marquette should be moving up in the rankings this week after winning both of its games last week. First, on Wednesday night the team delivered an easy 83-64 triumph over St. John's at home and then Saturday saw the Eagles play a tighter game versus Pittsburgh, but still registered a 62-57 victory over the slumping Panthers.
As for the Cardinals, a team which opened 2011-12 with 12 consecutive wins, they have hit a few bumps in the road since the holidays, losing four of five games during one stretch. However, on Saturday the team snapped a two-game slide by putting up a 76-59 decision over DePaul at home. With the victory, the Cardinals moved to 2-3 in conference and 12-2 in their own building.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Cardinals own a 40-25 advantage over Marquette, although the Golden Eagles have posted 13 wins in 30 meetings on their home floor over the years. The most recent matchup took place during the Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden last year, with Louisville blowing the doors off the Eagles, 81-56.
Louisville turned the ball over 17 times versus the Blue Demons at home two days ago, but the team made up for it with 50.9 percent shooting from the floor and outscored the visitors by a 13-3 margin at the free-throw line as well. Russ Smith was responsible for a game-high 25 points, adding six assists, five rebounds and four steals, while Chris Smith added 20 points and Gorgui Dieng 13 and a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with his four blocked shots. Louisville played the game without top-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.0 ppg) who has been dealing with a high left ankle sprain and is again listed as questionable for today's outing. Should Kuric be unable to go again, the Cardinals will surely call on the Smiths who showed that they can handle more of the load when given the opportunity. Dieng (10.1 ppg) has been a steady presence in the paint as well for the group with his 9.3 rebounds per outing and 59 rejections.
Had the game against Pittsburgh come earlier in the season, perhaps the Golden Eagles could be more proud of their win, but as it stands the Panthers are spinning out of control right now and are no longer one of the teams to beat in the Big East. Nevertheless, a group of just seven Marquette players controlled the action over the weekend as Darius Johnson-Odom delivered 18 points and Jae Crowder added 15 for the hosts in the victory. Johnson-Odom, the leading scorer in four of the last five games for the Golden Eagles, was right on his season average of 18.1 ppg versus Pitt as he continues to demonstrate why he is considered one of the top performers in the conference again this season. Crowder (16.3 ppg) is shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and is also the top rebounder for the group with better than seven per game, his presence on the inside just one of the reasons why the competition is shooting only 39.9 percent from the floor against Marquette to this point.