Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions in the Big East Conference meet at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday afternoon, as the South Florida Bulls try to upset the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals.
South Florida comes in with an overall record of 9-5, but the team is 0-2 in conference play following home losses to Syracuse (55-44) and Villanova (61-53) in the last week. Those setbacks came on the heels of a four-game win streak, and this is the first of two straight and three of the next four the Bulls will play on the road where they've won two of three thus far.
There aren't many teams hotter than Louisville at the moment, as Rick Pitino's club comes in sporting a 14-1 overall mark, which includes a 2-0 league ledger. The Cardinals posted a 73-58 win at Seton Hall earlier this week to run their current win streak to nine games. They are 3-0 in true road games this season, and their lone loss came against the current top team in the land in Duke (76-71) in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas back on Nov. 24.
Louisville owns a commanding 25-4 lead in the all-time series with South Florida, which includes a 13-2 mark on its home floor.
Poor shooting doomed the Bulls in their recent loss to Villanova, as they connected on a mere 36.0 percent of their field goal attempts, missing 14 of their 20 3-point attempts along the way. Victor Rudd scored a team-high 12 points, but went just 3-of-11 from the floor, while Anthony Collins and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively. A 42-32 rebounding deficit hurt USF's chances, as did the fact that it missed nearly half of its free-throw attempts (11-of-20). Rudd (11.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Fitzpatrick (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Jawanza Poland (10.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) all are averaging double figures in scoring this season, while Collins (9.8 ppg) is on the cusp of joining them. Far from what anyone would consider an offensive juggernaut, the Bulls rely on strong defensive play to keep the bulk of their opponents at bay, allowing around 60 ppg behind typical shooting efforts that hover near 39 percent overall and 30 percent from long range. Coach Stan Heath's team does a decent job of taking care of the basketball, coughing it up around 11 times per outing.
Off to its best start in nearly a decade, Louisville has had very little trouble controlling the action at both ends of the court this season as it owns significant advantages in scoring (+20.5), rebounding (+5.1) and turnovers (+8.1). As a team, the Cardinals are shooting 45.9 percent from the field, with 33.7 percent of their 3-point tries being successful, while at the same time allowing the opposition to convert just 39.8 percent of their total shots, which includes a 30.2 percent showing from beyond the arc. Russ Smith continues to play well for Pitino's club, averaging 19.4 ppg, while Peyton Siva adds 11.5 points and a team-high 6.1 assists per contest. Chane Behanan (11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers, although he missed the Seton Hall game with an ankle injury, and is expected to be out for another week or so. Speaking of the recent win over the Pirates, center Gorgui Dieng had a monster game for Louisville, logging a double-double consisting of 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Montrezl Harrell tallied 14 points and Smith finished with 11 points, seven boards and six assists. Siva dished out seven helpers for the Cards, who shot just 41.8 percent from the floor but held SHU to 34.7 percent.