In their third game without center Gorgui Dieng the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals will host the UMKC Kangaroos at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday afternoon.
UMKC managed to pull out its first road win of the season last time out as it downed North Dakota 73-70. The win continued a trend of trading wins and losses for the Kangaroos who have yet to string back-to-back wins or losses together this year. Overall UMKC is 4-4 but just 1-2 in away games. UMKC has already played a ranked opponent when it faced No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus and lost in a 91-45 rout. UMKC begins a three-game homestand against Appalachian State next.
Dieng (8.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is the centerpiece of Rick Pitino's strong defensive squad but was lost for 4-6 weeks in late November with a broken wrist. Louisville hasn't really skipped a beat since his departure with wins in each of the two games in which Dieng was sidelined. That included an 80-38 whipping of the College of Charleston, which had a win against a ranked Baylor squad earlier in the season. Louisville is 4-0 at home this season, but will be on the road against Memphis in its next contest.
This matchup is the first ever between these two programs.
Estan Tyler netted two free throws in the final seconds against North Dakota and a final 3-point attempt from Aaron Anderson was off the mark as UMKC escaped with the 73-70 win. The Kangaroos shot 48.2 percent in the game including a 7-of-17 showing from beyond the arc. The Kangaroos also held a 41-28 edge in rebounding and a 14-5 advantage in second chance points. All five starters were in double figures, led by Nate Rogers who netted 16 before fouling out.
UMKC hasn't done anything particularly impressive on offense this season. The Kangaroos are scoring 64.6 points per game, shooting 42.9 percent from the field and assisting on 10.5 field goals a contest. All three of those marks land near the bottom of the Summit League. On the other end the Kangaroos let up 69.0 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting. UMKC also has a slim +1.9 edge in rebounding overall. There are no scorers in double figures for UMKC. Tyler (9.5 ppg, 3.6 apg) is the closest to that mark but his inconsistent shooting has kept him from reaching there. Tyler has shot less than 35 percent from the field in three of the last four games. Kirk Korver (9.2 ppg), like his brother Kyle of the Atlanta Hawks, punches his meal ticket from long range where he has shot at a 40.6 percent clip. Fred Chatmon (7.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) hasn't lit up the scoreboard but is a more than capable frontcourt option.
Louisville was absolutely dominating against Charleston in Tuesday night's rout. The Cardinals forced 27 turnovers which they converted into 30 points, scored 40 points in the paint and limited Charleston to just 34.8 percent shooting. Peyton Siva scored 12 points and collected five steals in 26 minutes on the court.
Forwards Wayne Blackshear (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Chane Behanan (9.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) have had to pick up the pace in the frontcourt in Dieng's absence and thus far the two have done a solid job. Behanan has scored in double figures in each of the two games without Dieng and has averaged 7.5 rebounds per game during that time. Blackshear was held scoreless in the first game but put in 18 points against Charleston. The real scorers on the roster are in the backcourt in Siva and Russ Smith. It has Smith that has been most spectacular (19.0 ppg) while Siva (11.8 ppg, 5.6 apg) has taken a more complementary role in running the point. Each makes life difficult for opposing backcourts by picking up more than 2.5 steals per game. Pitino's squad is predicated on stingy defense. The Cardinals are allowing only 53.9 points per game and a 39.7 field goal percentage to foes. The key has been limiting ball movement with teams managing only 8.8 assists per game against the Cardinals. Both the team's defensive scoring average and allowed assists rank within the top 15 in the country.