Cougars and Cardinals clash in intriguing non-league matchup

The fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals are one of only a few undefeated teams left in the country, and they will face a stiff challenge tonight from the visiting College of Charleston Cougars.

Off to one of its best starts ever, Charleston is a stellar 9-1 on the year, its only loss coming versus UCF on Thanksgiving Day. Since that time, the Cougars have reeled off six straight wins, the most recent of which occurring this past Saturday in a closer-than-expected 70-68 final at home over Charleston Southern. CofC is a member of the Southern Conference, and the team has already claimed a pair of league wins over The Citadel and Chattanooga.

At 10-0, Louisville is off to its best start in 15 years, and the Cardinals are hoping the positive vibes will help them as they look ahead to the challenges that await with the start of Big East Conference play just around the corner. Coach Rick Pitino's club took care of Memphis on Saturday, 95-87, to move to 9-0 at home this season. This game marks the eighth in the team's current 10-game homestand, and its next road clash is slated for New Year's Eve at bitter, non-league rival Kentucky.

Louisville won the only other meeting between these two teams, taking a 78-63 decision at home back in 2005.

With four double-digit scorers in the fold, the Cougars are a potent offensive team as evidenced by the fact that they are averaging 74.9 ppg. In their two SoCon bouts, they averaged 85.0 ppg. They are hitting their field goals 47.0 percent of the time this season, and it's a good thing as they are being outrebounded by 1.6 rpg on average. Antwaine Wiggins is the Charleston's leading scorer at 18.1 ppg, and he adds 7.0 rebounds and a couple of assists per outing as well. Andrew Lawrence (13.7 ppg, 5.1 apg), Trent Wiedeman (12.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Anthony Stitt (10.7 ppg, 2.5 apg) have also performed well for coach Bobby Cremins' club, which had to hold on for its ninth win of the season over the weekend against Charleston Southern. Wiggins logged a double- double with 18 points and 11 boards in that clash, while Wiedeman came up with 10 rebounds, Stitt tallied 16 points and Lawrence another 14 while handing out five helpers. As a team, CofC shot 48 percent from the field and came away with the victory despite committing 19 turnovers.

Louisville's strength this season has been its play at the defensive end, as foes are permitted a mere 56.1 ppg on typical shooting outputs of .354 overall and .313 from three-point land. Favorable margins in both rebounding (+6.6) and turnovers (+3.3) have also helped. Offensively, the Cardinals are putting up 73.9 ppg behind 44.6 percent field goal efficiency, which includes a disappointing 31.5 percent showing from beyond the arc. Kyle Juric continues to pace the Cards in scoring with his 12.7 ppg, and three others are netting just over 10 ppg. Center Gorgui Deng is close to averaging a double-double with his 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and Chane Behanan could reach that goal as well, as he produces 9.3 points and 8.1 caroms per contest to this point. Pitino had an unlikely guy step into the spotlight in the recent win over Memphis, as Russ Smith put forth maximum effort in logging career highs in both points (24) and steals (seven). In all, six Cardinals reached double figures, and Deng completed a double-double performance with 14 points and 14 boards.