Big East showdown pits Cardinals against Pirates

A pair of teams having already logged double- digit wins meet in a Big East Conference showdown on Wednesday night, as the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals pay a visit to the Seton Hall Pirates.

Louisville has been nearly perfect through the first two months of the season, as the team brings a 13-1 mark into this contest. The Cardinals are in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, with their only loss coming in a 76-71 final versus Duke back on Nov. 24, the Blue Devils currently laying claim to the nation's No. 1 ranking. The team's most recent win was its first in conference play this year, as it took care of visiting Providence last Wednesday in an 80-62 final. This is only the third true road game of the season for coach Rick Pitino's club, but it will play four of its next six away from home.

Seton Hall is also enjoying a stellar start to the season, logging 12 wins in its first 15 opportunities. The Pirates opened Big East action with a 73-72 win at DePaul last Wednesday, but fell to 1-1 in conference and had a seven- game win streak come to an end with 93-74 loss at No. 21 Notre Dame on Saturday. SHU is 8-0 at the Prudential Center this season, although Louisville certainly represents its toughest home test thus far. Including this clash, the Pirates will play three of their next four in Newark.

Louisville owns an 11-5 advantage in the all-time series with Seton Hall, and the Cardinals have won the last three meetings and eight of the last 10 overall.

Russ Smith came off the bench to drain 4-of-5 3-point tries in scoring a game- high 23 points to help power Louisville past Providence last week in the Big East opener for both clubs. Gorgui Dieng put forth a solid effort from his center position, tallying 11 points, as many rebounds and four blocks, while Luke Hancock scored 11 points as well and grabbed eight boards in a reserve role. Starters Chane Behanan and Peyton Siva chipped in with 10 points apiece for the Cardinals, who hit 52.6 percent of their total shots, but converted only 13-of-21 chances at the free throw line. Louisville committed half as many turnovers as did the Friars (16-8). Smith is averaging an even 20 ppg, and he is joined in double digits by both Siva (11.9 ppg, 6.0 apg) and Behanan (11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), although their combined averages barely eclipse Smith's. The team as a whole is putting up 78.4 ppg while allowing just 57.5 ppg. Favorable margins also exist in both rebounding (+5.3) and turnovers (+8.4), the latter figure ranking as the second-best mark in all of Division I coming into the week. Behanan suffered a sprained ankle in practice on Monday and will not play in this contest.

Edwin Fuquan and Aaron Cosby each scored 21 points, and Eugene Teague finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, but those efforts went for naught as Seton Hall dropped a 19-point decision at Notre Dame this past weekend. Both teams hit double-digit 3-pointers in the contest, but the Fighting Irish shot 56.5 percent from the field overall, while the Pirates settled in at 45.3 percent. Both teams took pretty good care of the basketball, combining for 19 turnovers, and the home team logged an 11-5 edge in points from the foul line while securing a 37-30 rebounding advantage. Fuquan (17.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 spg, 2.1 apg) heads a list of three double-digit scorers for SHU, as he is joined by Teague (12.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Cosby (12.7 ppg, 2.8 apg) in leading the Pirates to the impressive record they've been able to log to this point. As a team, Seton Hall is shooting 46.6 percent from the floor in averaging 73.1 ppg, which includes a 38.2 percent effort from beyond the arc, while foes are netting 63.8 ppg in hitting just 41.1 percent of their total shots.