High-flying Cardinals pay visit to struggling Mountaineers

The 24th-ranked Louisville Cardinals take aim at their sixth straight win today, as they pay a visit to the West Virginia Mountaineers in Big East Conference action.

Louisville is coming off an 80-59 rout of visiting Connecticut on Monday night, improving coach Rick Pitino's club to 19-5 on the year and 7-4 in conference play. The Cardinals have clearly had an impressive run thus far, but they have proven to be somewhat mortal on the road (4-3). They have however, won their last two in enemy territory -- at Pitt and at Seton Hall.

West Virginia streaked out to a 15-5 start, but losses in four of its last five has the team sitting at 16-9 overall, 6-6 in conference, and has the Mountaineer faithful wondering just how good the team really is this year. Coach Bob Huggins' club is coming off a 55-51 loss to visiting Notre Dame, the setback being just the third in 13 home games for WVU to this point in the campaign.

Louisville owns an 8-4 lead in the all-time series with West Virginia, but the Mountaineers won the most recent meeting, 72-70, last March in Morgantown.

Louisville is outscoring its opponents by roughly 10 ppg this season, and the team is permitting the opposition an average field goal percentage of only .369 (best in the Big East) while forcing more than 16 turnovers per outing. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are guilty of 15 giveaways per game, and while they average nearly 72 ppg, they are hitting their three-point field goals just 32.2 percent of the time. UofL has four double-digit scorers in the form of Kyle Kuric (13.0 ppg), Russ Smith (12.1 ppg), Chris Smith (10.4 ppg) and Gorgui Dieng (10.4 ppg) -- a fifth player, Chane Behanan (11.1 ppg), joins the ranks when referring to Big East games only. Chris Smith was high man for the Cards in the recent win over UConn, netting 16 points on the strength of four three-pointers, the team draining 11 treys on the night. Dieng added 15 points, Kuric chipped in with 10, and Behanan grabbed 12 of the team's 28 rebounds. The Huskies were held to 35.1 percent field goal efficiency, and only three of their 14 long-range attempts found the bottom of the net.

Kevin Jones had his string of consecutive games in which he scored at least 20 points end at nine, as he tallied 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting in West Virginia's recent loss to Notre Dame. Jones pulled down 12 rebounds in logging his 16th double-double of the season for the Mountaineers, who shot just 41.4 percent from the floor and converted only 2-of-16 three-point tries (.125) against the Fighting Irish. Jabarie Hinds scored 17 points and Deniz Kilicli added 16 in defeat, as both team's took exceptional care of the basketball, combining for a mere eight turnovers -- WVU having only three. Through 25 games, the Mountaineers are putting up 73.6 ppg on 45.4 percent shooting from the floor, which includes a disappointing 31.7 percent showing from beyond the arc. They have done well in guarding against the three-pointer though, yielding just a 31.0 percent success rate to the opposition, and they own a +6.0 rebounding margin (second-best in the conference). Jones (20.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg) is a virtual shoe-in to be named Big East Player of the Year as he leads the league in both scoring and rebounding, while ranking in the top-10 in field goal percentage (.528) and minutes played (38.2). Bryant (16.9 ppg) and Kilicli (11.3 ppg) are both averaging double figures in the scoring column as well for West Virginia.