Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Still very much in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference crown, the 13th-ranked Louisville Cardinals play host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in an AAC matchup at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.
The defending national champions were on the floor just two days ago and made light work of the Temple Owls on the road, 82-58. Rick Pitino's squad has now won three straight games and seven of its last eight overall, to move to 9-2 in conference play, trailing only the Cincinnati Bearcats in the league standings.
Eddie Jordan's first season with the Scarlet Knights has had more valleys than peaks. Rutgers is currently five games under .500 on the year (10-15), which includes an ugly 4-8 ledge in the league. The Knights were also in action on Friday and suffered a 77-65 loss to nationally-ranked SMU.
Louisville has won 12 of the 13 all-time meetings with Rutgers and is seeking a regular-season sweep after posting am 83-76 decision in Piscataway on Jan. 4.
In a game originally scheduled for Thursday but moved due to weather conditions, Rutgers trailed by seven points at the half and could not overtake the Mustangs in the 12-point loss. Myles Mack led the team in defeat with 17 points. Kadeem Jack flirted with a double-double, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds for Rutgers, which shot just .411 from the floor, a number weighed down by a horrible 3-of-14 from behind the arc (.214).
Mack is the straw that stirs the drink for Rutgers. Despite shooting a mere .411 from the field this season, the junior playmaker leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), assists (4.3 apg) and steals (45). Jack complements with his play up front, adding 14.4 ppg, while grabbing a team-high 6.9 rpg. J.J. Moore is a third option, chipping in with 11.4 ppg. Jerome Seagears has been in and out of the starting lineup this season and offers up 9.0 ppg.
The Cardinals are getting the job done at both ends of the court, as their +20.1 scoring margin clearly indicates. The team has the ability to light up the scoreboard to the tune of 82.3 ppg, thanks to a healthy .477 shooting. The defensive play is equally impressive, limiting foes to just 62.2 ppg and holding them under .400 shooting (.396). In addition, Louisville holds a +3.0 rebounding margin and an astounding +6.6 turnover margin. Louisville will counter Rutgers' Mack with All-American candidate Russ Smith, who paces the Cardinals with 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per game. He is aided in the backcourt by Chris Jones and his 10.9 ppg. The frontcourt is stocked with playmakers as well in Montrezl Harrell (13.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg), Luke Hancock (11.4 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (9.8 ppg).
Also needing to move the schedule around a bit, Louisville routed Temple when the two teams finally met up in Philadelphia on Friday. The Cardinals jumped all over the Owls, taking a commanding 52-25 lead into halftime and never looked back. Harrell was the leading force down low in the win, recording a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, adding four blocks for good measure. Smith added 15 points to the cause, while Hancock checked in with 11. Louisville shot a sizzling .516 from the floor overall and held a 43-32 edge in rebounding.