Cardinals collide with Bulls in Big East action

After he was put on the shortlist of candidates for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Rick Pitino will lead his Louisville Cardinals into the Sun Dome for a Big East bout with the South Florida Bulls.

On Friday, Pitino was named one of 12 finalists selected for consideration for induction in the 2013 Hall of Fame class along with such names as Gary Payton and Tom Heinsohn. During his 27-year career Pitino has earned 647 wins, reached the NCAA Tournament 17 times and collected one NCAA Championship while leading Kentucky in 1996.

Pitino has himself another contender this season with his Cardinals ranked No. 12 in the country. The Cardinals, who were once No. 1 this season, have regrouped from a three-game losing steak with victories in four of the last five contests. Overall the Cardinals are 20-5 with an 8-4 mark in conference play, good for fourth place in the clogged Big East standings, but just a game out of first place. Next up the Cardinals will host Seton Hall.

The campaign has not been going as well for South Florida. The Bulls are a miserable 1-11 in Big East play which has them in dead last in the conference. With a 76-66 loss to Providence on Wednesday night the Bulls have now lost seven straight games, the longest such streak of the season for South Florida. Up next the Bulls take a trip to take on St. John's.

Louisville, not surprisingly, rolled to a 64-38 win over South Florida when these teams met earlier this season. The Bulls had ended an 11-game winning streak for the Cardinals last season for just their fourth win in the all-time series, which Louisville leads, 26-4.

It was just another day at the office for Louisville against St. John's on Wednesday. The Cardinals earned a 72-58 victory in the contest after coming off a five overtime heartbreaker against Notre Dame in the previous contest. Russ Smith scored 21 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead the Cardinals.

Though Smith (18.6 ppg) is still putting up big point totals his shooting has been erratic of late. The 6-foot guard has shot less than 40 percent in each of the last three games. Smith carries the bulk of the scoring load for the Cardinals who have three players in double figures but no one else putting in more than Chane Behanan (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg). Peyton Siva (10.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 2.1 spg) is a pesky guard that is fourth in the conference in assists and steals. Gorgui Dieng (9.4 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.6 bpg) is a double-double waiting to happen inside, as well as an aggressive shot blocker, while Luke Hancock (6.7 ppg) has added spark off the bench. All together Louisville is the second best scoring team in the Big East (74.6 ppg), while holding foes to just 59.1 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting.

South Florida played a bit undisciplined on the defensive end against Providence as the Bulls committed 20 fouls and allowed the Friars to earn a 21-9 edge in points from the free-throw line. Victor Rudd (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Collins (12 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles in defeat.

Not only is South Florida last in the Big East standings it is also at the bottom in nearly every offensive category, including scoring (60 pg), assists (11.5 pg) and field-goal percentage (.395). The Bulls are also last in the conference in rebounds (32.4 pg). The offensive struggles have wiped away any benefits the Bulls have had on the defensive end where they have allowed just 62.7 points per game. Rudd (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the top scorer and rebounder on the squad, but performances like he had against Providence have been few and far between. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) scored 14 points against Providence and is the only other player averaging in double figures. Collins (9.0 ppg, 6.6 apg) has done his best to orchestrate the offense, ranking second in the Big East in assists.