The 10th-ranked Louisville Cardinals will try to make a move towards the top of the Big East when they take on the DePaul Blue Demons in a conference conflict at Allstate Arena on Wednesday night.
Since its heartbreaking loss in five overtimes to Notre Dame, Louisville has ripped off three straight double-digit victories. The most recent was a 79-61 bashing of Seton Hall that improved Louisville to 22-5 overall and 10-4 in league action. That has the Cardinals just a half game behind Marquette for second place in the league standings and a full game behind conference-leading Georgetown.
Things have not been going nearly as well for the Blue Demons who have taken losses in back-to-back games and 11 of their last 12 games. DePaul is just 11-16 overall, including a miserable 2-12 mark in conference play. The Blue Demons are better than only 1-13 South Florida in Big East play.
These former Conference USA members have met 58 times previously. Louisville has taken wins in 37 of those matchups including in each of the last nine meetings.
Against Seton Hall, Louisville forced 21 turnovers to come away with the 18- point victory. The Cardinals were led by 23 points from Gorgui Dieng who also brought in eight rebounds while blocking three shots. Russ Smith was also solid in the contest with 19 points, while going a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Louisville has been piling up the double-digit victories all season long as it owns an impressive +15.7 scoring margin for the season. The difference has primarily come at the defensive end as the Cardinals are allowing teams to put up just 58.5 points per game while shooting less than 40 percent from the floor. Getting into passing lanes has been a strength for the Cardinals defensively as they allow just 9.9 assists per game, while collecting the third most steals in the nation (10.7 pg). Smith (18.4 ppg) has shown no fear in taking shots from anywhere on the court. Chane Behanan (11.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is the only other player on the team averaging double figures, although Peyton Siva (9.9 ppg, 6.0 apg) and Dieng (9.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg) are within range. Siva is more important as a distributor, while Dieng is vital for his rebounding and ability to protect the rim.
Cleveland Melvin recorded a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds but DePaul still couldn't get past Connecticut last time out. The Blue Demons allowed the Huskies to shoot an incredible 60 percent from the field and 11- of-22 from beyond the arc in the 12-point loss.
Melvin (16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) has been one of very few bright spots for the Blue Demons. The 6-foot-8 forward is among the top 10 scorers and rebounders in the Big East and has scored in double figures in 10 conference games this season. However, it is actually Brandon Young (16.5 ppg, 4.5 apg) who leads the team in scoring as a strong complement to Melvin in the backcourt. Young is among the top 10 scorers in the Big East, while also fitting in that range in assists. Jamee Crockett (9.3 ppg) is the only other player scoring more than 7.5 points per game for the Blue Demons. As a team, DePaul is among the top three scoring squads in the Big East (73.1 ppg). However the Blue Demons have struggled on the defensive end, allowing teams to score 74.5 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting.