Two teams at opposite ends of the Big East Conference standings meet at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, as the Seton Hall Pirates come calling on the 10th-ranked Louisville Cardinals.
Seton Hall streaked out to a 12-2 start to the season, but its Big East brethren have been anything but kind since league play began, the Pirates winning just two of their first 14 BEC bouts. Currently, the team is mired in an eight-game losing streak, and it only has won win in its last 13 tilts. SHU's most recent setback was a 67-46 embarrassment at home against a ranked Marquette squad earlier this week, a defeat that dropped the team's record in front of its fans to 9-6.
Louisville was cruising right along, looking forward to challenging for the top spot in the conference, when a three-game losing streak clipped the Cardinals wings. Since then however, Rick Pitino's club has won five of its last six, the one loss during that stretch being a five-overtime thriller at Notre Dame two weeks ago. Presently, UofL is riding a two-game win streak, with its most recent triumph coming in a 59-41 final at South Florida last Sunday.
Louisville owns a 12-5 lead in the all-time series with Seton Hall, and the Cardinals won the first meeting between the two earlier this season -- 73-58 on the road on Jan. 9.
Despite all their issues, the Pirates are fortunate have one of the Big East's top scorers on the roster, as Fuquan Edwin is shooting 41.4 percent from 3- point range in netting 17.1 ppg. He is also valuable in other areas, coming up with 5.7 rpg while logging a team-high 69 steals. Aaron Cosby (11.9 ppg, 2.9 apg) and Eugene Teague (11.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) have also produced for the Pirates, who net 66.0 ppg while permitting 65.1 ppg. SHU has the fewest blocked shots (70) of any team in the conference, and it also ranks last in turnover margin (-2.52). Edwin scored 14 points and Cosby chipped in with 11, but the Pirates were overmatched from the start in their recent clash Marquette, the team shooting a woeful 29.4 percent from the field. Edwin and Cosby combined to go just 8-of-26. SHU blocked only two shots and allowed the Golden Eagles to convert 49.1 percent of their total shots. The Pirates were beaten badly on the boards, 43-24.
With the exception of a few blips on the radar, Louisville has excelled at both ends of the court this season, putting up 74.0 ppg while permitting just 58.4 ppg -- both of which rank the team in the top-3 in the conference. The Cardinals lead the league in steals (10.7 spg) and turnover margin (+6.08), and they are fortunate to have the Big East's second-leading scorer on the roster in Russ Smith (18.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.8 apg). Additionally, the Cards have two other double-digit scorers in Chane Behanan (11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Peyton Siva (10.0 ppg, 6.1 apg), the latter of whom ranks third in the conference in assists. Smith was the high man for Louisville in the recent win over USF, as he hit for 15 points, while also grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists. Behanan and Wayne Blackshear both tallied 12 points, and Siva got them all in on the action by dishing out seven helpers. The team as a whole made good on 45.8 percent of its total shots, but was well off the mark from long range (2-of-13). The defensive effort was top-notch once again, as the Bulls were allowed just a 24.5 percent success rate on their field goal attempts, which included dismal 5-of-20 showing from beyond the arc.