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College Basketball Preview: Connecticut vs. Louisville

(13)Connecticut Huskies @ (16)Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
Time: 9:03 pm EST
Television: ESPN Brent Musburger, play-by-play; Bob Knight, analyst.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Doug Ormay, analyst. (also SIRIUS ch. 122, XM 143)
Series History: Tied 5-5 (2-2 in Louisville, 2-1 in Storrs, 1-1 in Hartford, 0-1 neutral
Officials: John Cahill, Karl Hess, Tony Green

A day short of three weeks ago, these two teams met in Storrs for their first battle of 2011. Louisville left Gampel Pavilion with a huge double overtime victory over the then fifth-ranked Connecticut Huskies. This game, if there is such a word, will be huger.

The Cards and Huskies are currently in a four-way tie for the coveted fourth place spot in the BIG EAST at 8-5 with just five conference games remaining. UConn entered the first matchup at 17-2, and including their loss to UofL are just 3-3 in their last six contests with two of those wins over Seton Hall and Providence.

To get a look at where UConn was three weeks ago, CLICK HERE.

Kemba Walker is still a National Player of the Year candidate, but has came back down to earth a little bit since his roaring start to the season. However, he’s averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 boards in the last two games, finishing with 31-10-7 in a big home victory over 9th-ranked Georgetown on Wednesday. On the season Walker is second in the BIG EAST and is seventh in the nation in scoring (23.2 ppg).

Connecticut’s defense is solid as always, leading the BIG EAST in blocked shots (6.4), also good for sixth in the nation. The Huskies also lead the BIG EAST and are 15th nationally in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 39.2 percent clip.

Louisville is coming off a putrid road performance on Wednesday in the Nasty ‘Nati, where they fell to Mick Cronin and his Bearcats 63-54. The Cardinals don’t match-up well with Cincinnati and was unable to play the smaller line-up Pitino prefers. And with Louisville’s front-court being so banged up, they just weren’t able to compete physically with the Bearcats.

The Cardinals will have two members of their front-court available this time around, who were not in the first meeting in sophomore Rakeem Buckles and freshman Gorgui Dieng. These two’s size and length should make the match-up zone even more difficult to penetrate.

Jim Calhoun summed up the previous game way better than I could ever hope to: “Louisville gave us a great deal of problems with their matchup (zone), but they particularly gave us problems by spacing the floor exceptionally well,” Calhoun said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do. Our job will be to solve their matchup a little better than we did the first time and secondly, take away their fast break and their perimeter shooting.”

So, there is what the keys to the game shall be. Can UConn solve the Louisville zone that forced the Huskies to bomb away from downtown, hitting just eight of 30 attempts in the first meeting? UConn shot only 37.7 percent overall in the 2OT loss. Will the Huskies be able to handle the Cardinal pressure and limit their turnovers? And when they do turn it over, will they be able to get back and prevent Louisville from scoring in the open court?

This will be another close one, but the Cardinals pull away late and win it in regulation at home.

Louisville 79, Connecticut 72


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