Published November 20, 2014
Arkansas State has stumbled its way to a 1-3 start, having dropped decisions to Lamar (65-62), Missouri State (77-46) and Ohio University (69-54), while claiming its only victory over UT-Martin (63-45). The loss to OU took place on Sunday, and was the Red Wolves' second in as many road tilts to this point in the season. ASU is a member of the Sun Belt Conference, and coach John Brady's club will begin league play on New year's Eve against ULM.
As for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, they are perfect through three games, posting double-digit wins over UT-Martin (83-48), Lamar (68-48) and two-time defending national runner-up Butler (69-53). Louisville, which is 3-0 for the third straight year, will begin Big East Conference play at home versus Georgetown on December 28, but before then the Cards will battle nationally-ranked foes Vanderbilt and Memphis. They visit rival Kentucky on New Year's Eve.
Louisville owns a 2-0 lead in the all-time series with Arkansas State, and the most recent meeting occurred in 2005 at Freedom Hall with the Cardinals logging a 67-55 win.
Arkansas State has one of the top guards in the Sun Belt on its roster, as Trey Finn is averaging 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Unfortunately, only one other player for the Red Wolves is netting double digits, as Brandon Peterson turns in 11.0 ppg while also grabbing 5.3 rpg. Marcus Hooten and Malcolm Kirkland are close to joining the fray, checking in at 9.0 and 9.0 ppg, respectively for the Red Wolves, who are shooting just 38.6 percent from the field and putting up a mere 56.2 ppg as a result. They are shooting nearly identical from three-point range (.385), but are just 63.6 percent accurate from the foul line, and guilty of nearly 19 turnovers per outing. Defensively, they are yielding just 64 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 39.5 percent overall and 38.5 percent from downtown. Peterson scored 19 points and grabbed seven boards to lead ASU in the recent loss to Ohio University, while Finn finished with 17 points. The Red Wolves had their best shooting game of the season (.442), but 22 turnovers and the fact that the Bobcats hit nine treys were simply too much to overcome.
While still early, Louisville has had no problem doing what it wants at both ends of the court this season. With three players averaging double figures in scoring, and two more on the cusp, Pitino's crew is averaging 73.3 ppg in hitting 48.4 percent of its field goal attempts. Conversely, opponents are putting up just 49.7 ppg and shooting a dismal 29.9 percent from the floor, which includes a 23.6 percent effort from beyond the arc. Add a near +10 rpg advantage and it's easy to see why the Cardinals haven't lost yet. Kyle Kuric leads the team with 12.3 ppg, while Chris Smith nets 10.7 ppg and Peyton Siva another 10.5 ppg to go with 6.0 apg. Chane Behanan is averaging a near double- double with 9.3 points and 10.7 caroms per contest. Kuric led the way against Butler last time out, netting 17 points on 7-of-11 field goal efficiency, and Smith poured in 15 points. Siva missed the game with an ankle injury, so Russ Smith made his first career start and scored nine points. The Cards shot 51.1 percent from the floor, while holding the Bulldogs to 39.1 percent. Louisville dominated the interior, outscoring Butler 32-16 in the paint.