Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - The suddenly slumping Louisville Cardinals
will try to get out of a rut when they play host to the upset-minded
Pittsburgh Panthers at the KFC Yum! Center in Big East Conference action on
The Panthers have been riding a wave of momentum of late with wins in four
straight contests. Their most recent victory was a 93-55 rout of DePaul on
Saturday, moving the team to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in league play. The latter
mark good for third place in the Big East at this point. Pittsburgh hasn't
been rattled in opposing arenas this season, posting a mark of 3-1 on the
road. Pittsburgh entertains Syracuse in its next contest.
Just a little more than a week ago, Louisville stood as the No. 1 team in the
country. Since then however, the Cardinals have been in free fall with three
straight losses, the most recent of which being a 53-51 setback against
Georgetown. This is the first three-game losing streak for the Cardinals since
the 2009-10 season. Louisville is still an impressive 16-4 overall, but at 4-3
in conference the Cardinals are locked in a six-way tie for fourth place in
the Big East. Playing their next two games at home should help the Cards, who
are 9-1 at the KFC Yum! Center this year.
Louisville swept the season series a year ago to up its current win streak
over Pittsburgh to three. As a result, the Cardinals lead the all-time series,
Pittsburgh dominated DePaul over the weekend, holding the Blue Demons to just
27.7 percent shooting while hitting 49.3 percent of its own shots. In fact,
the Panthers had nearly twice as many field goals as the Blue Demons who they
would lead by as many as 42 points at one point.
The defensive performance by Pittsburgh fell in line with how well the team
has been playing at that end of the floor all season. The Panthers let up the
sixth-fewest points per game (54.5) in the country, while holding foes to less
than 40 percent shooting. Pitt has also allowed the 20th-fewest assists (9.9
pg) to foes while ranking first in the country in opponent's rebounds (27.4
pg). Pittsburgh complements its strong defense with an efficient offense built
on ball movement and shot selection. The Panthers are second in the conference
in assists (17.6 pg) and field goal percentage (.492). Each of those marks is
among the top-10 in the country as well. Talib Zanna (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Tray
Woodall (10.5 ppg, 5.8 apg) and Lamar Patterson (10.2 ppg) are the club's top
In its recent loss to Georgetown, Louisville shot just 34.8 percent from the
floor while managing a mere seven assists. Both teams struggled down the
stretch, but the Cardinals especially as they missed their final five shots
from the floor in the two-point loss.
Peyton Siva (10.9 ppg, 5.8 apg) might not be the flashiest scorer on the team,
but his ball handling and defense have been vital to the Cardinals this
season. That could not have been more evident than it was against the Hoyas as
he was held scoreless in the game after dealing with foul trouble. Siva has
struggled of late, averaging a scant 6.0 points over the last three games.
Russ Smith (18.4 ppg) is the biggest offensive threat on the squad, but coach
Rick Pitino has started bringing him off the bench in recent games. Gorgui
Dieng (9.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg) is a force on the interior with how he
attacks the boards and protects the rim. Chane Behanan (10.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and
Wayne Blackshear (9.2 ppg) have also been valuable contributors.
The Sports Network