Bowling Green, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals take part in their first true road test of the 2014-15 campaign as they take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a intrastate showdown at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Rick Pitino's Cardinals are a flawless 9-0 on the young season after disposing of UNC Wilmington last weekend, 68-57. The win was the 350th for Pitino at Louisville. This game represents the 950th career game the Hall of Famer has coached.
Ray Harper's Hilltoppers embarked on a seven-game homestand on Wednesday, with a 75-60 win over Chicago State. Western Kentucky has won two straight games and has moved over .500 at 5-4 overall. The team will remain at home until a Jan. 15 Conference USA matchup at Florida Atlantic.
These two instate foes have met 77 prior times. Louisville actually trails in the all-time series 39-38, although the Cardinals have closed the gap with five straight wins over the Hilltoppers, including a 79-63 victory last season at the KFC Yum! Center.
It wasn't the most efficient performance by Louisville last time out, but the Cardinals were still able to keep UNCW at arm's length and remain undefeated on the season. Louisville shot just .415 from the floor and was guilty of 16 turnovers , but did hold a 44-35 edge in rebounding and outscored the Seahawks 13-4 at the free-throw line. Montrezl Harrell continued his quest for All- America honors, posting a double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Terry Rozier matched Harrell's scoring output with 19 points of his own, while Wayne Blackshear and Chris Jones checked in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Cardinals are getting the job done at both ends of the court and as a result own one of the best scoring margins in the entire country at a bloated +24.2. The team has also dominated play on the boards with a +11.2 rebounding margin and boasts of a +5.1 turnover margin. Harrell has been one of the nation's premier players, shooting .621 from the field and averaging a double- double with 17.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Scoring support comes in the form of Rozier (15.1 ppg), Jones (12.9 ppg) and Blackshear (12.8 ppg).
Western Kentucky has shown some offensive punch of late. After scoring 81 points in two straight games on Dec. 6 and Dec. 12, the team rolled up 75 in a 15-point win over Chicago State. The Hilltoppers shot .489 from the floor in the game and converted 11-of-23 3-point attempts. Senior guard T.J. Price was in a zone, hitting 9-of-14 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from behind the arc to tally a game-high 29 points. Chris Harrison-Docks (13 pts), Trency Jackson (12 pts) and George Fant (10 pts) were heard from as well.
The scoring output of late hasn't been a normal occurrence for WKU, which enters this game averaging a more modest 68.4 ppg. Price has been a strong asset at the offensive end, pacing the team with 17.1 ppg. Harrison-Docks (12.0 ppg) and Fant (11.2 ppg) are also sporting double-digit scoring averages, while Jackson (9.9 ppg) is just under that mark.