USF will attempt to snap its 11-game losing streak to Louisville tonight. In last season's bout, the Cardinals extended their streak with an 86-77 victory in Tampa, which made their series lead 25-8.
USF comes in with a 18-11 overall record and has already set a new program record for wins in Big East action with its 11-5 league ledger. The Bulls bounced back from their recent loss to Syracuse with a 46-45 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. Head coach Stan Heath has to be pleased with his team's defensive performance as of late, as it has held its last six opponents to 56 points or less. While the Bulls improved their NCAA Tournament dreams with their win over UC, they are still on the bubble going into this one, and a loss today might hurt their chances of a trip to the Big Dance. USF has the lowest scoring defense in the Big East, with an allowed average of just 57.7 ppg. However, the Bulls are also ranked last in scoring offense as they net only 60.1 ppg due to their slow-it-down style of play.
South Florida comes in having won five of its last six, largely due to the play of Anthony Collins. The freshman point guard has submitted four-straight gutsy performances and has averaged 14.5 points and seven assists in his last four outings. Collins gave USF a win over Cincinnati on Sunday as he knocked down a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to lift the team to a one-point win. With Collins emerging as the new leader, the Bulls appear more dangerous than ever as Augustus Gilchrist, Victor Rudd Jr, Jawanza Poland, and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick are all strong defenders and steady contributors.
While USF has had an impressive run, one thing it has yet to do is defeat a ranked opponent. Head coach Rick Pitino will try to have his team ready to make sure that trend continues tonight. Louisville has not been very impressive lately as it barely escaped on the winning end of its recent match ups with DePaul and Pittsburgh, two of the Big East's worst teams. In between its hard-fought victories, the Cardinals dropped a 60-56 decision to Cincinnati. UL is 22-7 overall and 10-6 in Big East action, which puts it one game behind USF. The Cardinals are a very tough defensive group as well, as they are allowing opponents to shoot only 37.6 percent from the field, the third lowest mark in the country, and have averaged 9.3 steals per game.
Senior Kyle Kuric is leading the Cardinals' balanced attack with 13.1 ppg. Kuric rebounded from his dreadful 0-of-11 shooting performance versus Cincinnati to net 17 points against Pitt on Sunday. Russ Smith and Chris Smith also contribute double-digit scoring averages, while Gorgui Dieng is leading the squad on the glass with 9.2 boards per contest. Russ Smith led the team with 18 points versus the Panthers on Sunday to score in double-digits for the 16th time in his last 21 games.