Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Having recently suffered their first American Athletic Conference loss of the campaign. the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals will try to bounce back on Sunday when they host the SMU Mustangs at the KFC Yum! Center.
It has been a week since SMU last hit the floor, the team having topped Connecticut in a 74-65 final at home. The win was the sixth in the last seven games for the Mustangs, who are 11-3 overall, although they have split their four games on the road. They will return home to face South Florida next.
Louisville was toppled by 24th-ranked Memphis on Thursday in one of the more intriguing matchups on the conference schedule for the newly-formed AAC. The loss ended a two-game win streak for the Cardinals, who are 13-3 overall, including a 9-1 mark at home. They can build upon that home resume' again this coming Thursday against Houston.
This is the first meeting between these two programs since Louisville earned an 87-79 victory during the 1987-88 season. The Cardinals lead the all-time series, 6-2.
Nic Moore and Nick Russell combined for 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to push SMU past UConn last week. The Mustangs limited the Huskies to just 36.7 percent shooting, while holding a sizable edge on the glass (37-29). SMU also outscored the Huskies in the paint (28-18).
Larry Brown has molded his squad into one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Mustangs are ranked second nationally in opponent field goal percentage (.358), while also placing among the top-20 in scoring defense (61.6 ppg). Moore (13.9 ppg, 4.6 apg) is a steady scorer and a strong passer who makes good decisions with the ball, as he is third in the league in assists. Markus Kennedy (10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the only other player on the roster averaging in double figures, although Nick Russell (8.5 ppg) has the ability, but by shooting just 38.3 percent from the floor has failed to live up to his full potential.
The defensive-minded Cardinals were beat up on inside by Memphis in Thursday's loss. Louisville allowed the Tigers to shoot 50.9 percent from the floor, while scoring 42 points in the paint. Luke Hancock tallied 20 points and five assists in the losing effort, but he had only six points in the final 20 minutes.
Louisville was also out of sorts offensively against Memphis. Rick Pitino's unit shot just 39.1 percent from the floor and the 67 points it scored was far below the league-leading pace it has set for the season (83.8 ppg). Russ Smith (17.8 ppg, 4.8 apg) has always been able to fill the basket, but he has shown growth as a distributor this season, as he ranks second in the AAC in both scoring and assists. Montrezl Harrell (11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Chris Jones (11.9 ppg) are regular double-digit scoring threats as well. Also figuring in the mix are Hancock (9.7 ppg), who is a strong shooter from beyond the arc, and Wayne Blackshear (9.5 ppg), who adds athleticism to the starting lineup.