Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - In yet another home game, the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals will play host to instate rival Western Kentucky, as the teams square off in non-league play at the KFC Yum! Center.
This game wraps up a three-game road swing for the Hilltoppers. The first two contests of the stretch were split by Western Kentucky, which topped Southern Illinois (69-60) last time out after losing to Bowling Green (74-62). Western Kentucky is now 5-3 overall but just 1-3 on the road.
Other than a 93-84 loss to North Carolina during the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, the Cardinals have been untouchable. Louisville improved its record to 8-1 overall with a 113-74 rout of Louisiana last time out. The win was the seventh in as many tries for Louisville at home. The Cardinals, who have yet to play a true road game, will again be the host team on Tuesday against Missouri State.
Even though Louisville has won 17 of the last 20 meetings between these programs, the Hilltoppers still hold a slight lead in the all-time series (39-37). The Cardinals ran away with a 78-55 decision during last year's meeting.
Led by a career-high 30 points from Brandon Harris, the Hilltoppers were able to earn their first road victory against Southern Illinois. The Hilltoppers only hit on 41.2 percent of their shots in the game, but nailed 10 shots from beyond the arc, including eight from Harris.
Overall, the Hilltoppers have struggled to shoot at a consistent rate, sinking just 39 percent of their attempts from the floor and averaging only 63.6 ppg. Western Kentucky keeps itself competitive by allowing only 62.6 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting. T.J. Price (15.6 ppg) and George Fant (13.9 ppg, 6 rpg) are normally the go-to players offensively for the Hilltoppers. Harris (9.8 ppg) missed some games earlier this season and had scored only 19 points combined this season prior to last Saturday's outburst.
Just about every shot the Cardinals put up seemed to find its way to the bottom of the net against Louisiana. Louisville knocked down 61.3 percent of its field goal attempts and also got 33 points at the free-throw line. The Cardinals were as pesky as ever on defense, forcing 17 turnovers and converting them into 32 points.
Ball control is perhaps the greatest strength for Rick Pitino's squad. The Cardinals are 15th in the country in assist to turnover ratio (+1.61), while producing the fifth-most steals in the nation (10.9 pg). Louisville also does great work on the boards (41 pg) and in scoring (86.7 ppg). Russ Smith (17.6 ppg, 4.3 apg) has really matured this season. Although he leads the team in scoring and field-goal attempts, he has become a much more willing passer. Smith leads the team in assists and had his first career double-digit total in the category two games ago against UMKC. Chris Jones (14.9 ppg) teams with Smith in the backcourt as is a reliable 3-point shooter. Montrezl Harrell (13.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor. Depth comes in the form of Wayne Blackshear (9.7 ppg), Luke Hancock (9.0 ppg) and Chance Behanan (7.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg).