Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first-ever ACC loss, the now sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals will attempt to right the ship, as they play host to the Virginia Tech Hokies in a conference clash at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday evening.
Rick Pitino's Cardinals have just two losses all season. The first came against top-ranked Kentucky (58-50) and the second on Saturday at 18th-ranked North Carolina (72-71). The loss to the Tar Heels was the first in conference play for Louisville and ended a three-game win streak.
Buzz Williams' first season in Blacksburg hasn't exactly gone according to plan. The Hokies are hovering just over .500 at 8-7, but the team is still looking for its first ACC victory, entering this contest with a three-game losing streak in tow. The team was last in action on Jan. 6, an 86-75 road loss at Florida State, leaving the team 0-2 in conference play.
Louisville has dominated this series overall with a 28-8 edge in games played since the series began in 1978. The Cardinals have won nine straight meetings.
The Hokies shot a solid .519 from the floor in the first half against Florida State, but it was the Seminoles that were red-hot, going .731 from the floor, including a ridiculous 7-of-10 from behind the arc in the first stanza. Despite both teams cooling off considerably after the break, Tech was unable to overcome and earn a win. The loss spoiled terrific performances by guards Justin Bibbs and Adam Smith, who combined for 49 points. Bibbs topped all scorers with 25, followed closely by Smith's 24.
Virginia Tech is by no means an offensive juggernaut, averaging 69.4 ppg this year, but the team has been efficient at that end of the floor, converting almost 48 percent of the time (.478). Bibbs leads the team in scoring at 13.5 ppg, but has really taken over in conference play, netting 23.5 ppg through two outings. Smith is the only other Hokie currently averaging double digits in the scoring column at 12.7 ppg. Joey van Zegeren is just under the mark however, with 9.8 ppg.
Louisville let one slip away in Chapel Hill over the weekend, as the Cardinals allowed a 13-point lead with under nine minutes to play evaporate, culminating in a one-point loss to the Tar Heels. The team was led once again by guard Terry Rozier, who finished with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss. Fellow guard Chris Jones poured in 19 points, while forward Wayne Blackshear finished with 10 points. All-America candidate Montrezl Harrell struggled however, as the big man tallied just nine points and five rebounds in 38 minutes of work.
The Cardinals' lack of defensive grit down the stretch against UNC has not been the norm this season. In fact, Louisville remains one of the top defensive units in the country, yielding just 56.5 ppg on a mere .364 shooting. Rozier has emerged as one of the ACC's top scorers this season, coming into this matchup averaging 17.5 ppg. Harrell has struggled a little of late, but is still shooting .584 from the field and averaging 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Jones and Blackshear provide offensive options with their 13.2 and 12.4 ppg, respectively. However, there is almost no scoring depth behind the four starters, as the fifth-best scoring option on the team nets a mere 4.1 ppg.