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College Basketball Preview: Florida International vs. Louisville

Florida International Golden Panthers @ Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Wednesday December 1, 2010
Time: 7:02 pm EST
T.V.: Dave Weekley, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst.
Radio: WHAS 840 AM Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Doug Ormay, analyst.
Series History: first ever meeting
Officials: Mike Roberts, Michael Stephens, Brent Hampton

This will be the Cards’ final game in the Global Sports Shootout. After wins over Jackson State, Chattanooga and Marshall, Louisville is seeking its 25th regular season tournament championship in the round robin format, and will get it with a victory over Florida International. Along with that may also come the Cardinals first appearance in the national polls. They sit 27th in the AP and 29th in the ESPN/USA Today rankings.

Pitino’s squad has played very well overall in their first four contests, showing an unselfish, balanced attack that comes at opponents from all angles. Slick Rick’s promise to return to a more fast paced strategy has shown as the Cardinals lead the BIG EAST in steals per game with 12.3, and have recorded double digit steals in all four games.

It is still very early in the season, but it is noteworthy that Terrence Jennings is currently fourth in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 4.0 per game. He has returned at least one shot to sender in nine consecutive regular season games.

The Golden Panthers of Florida International are led by head coach Isiah Thomas, who we all know why he chose this gig: The Golden Dazzlers!

Thomas is in his second season at FIU, and has amassed a 11-27 record. Like Louisville, the Golden Panthers are also a balanced team who are more than capable of putting some big numbers up on the scoreboard. With four starters averaging in double figures, and two of those hitting 15+ points per contest, if the opposition doesn’t lock down on defense Florida International can and will hang tough and go hoop for hoop with just about anyone.

FIU leads the Sun Belt Conference in field goal percentage (.465) which has propelled them to average 74.7 points per game. Their leading scorer is junior forward Eric Frederick at 16.5 points per game. Frederick is an absolute beast in the lane. He goes hard to the hoop every time he touches the ball, and if you try and body him up he’ll do all he can to go through you. He runs the floor well and could be key in breaking Pitino’s press defense.

DeJuan Wright, who is a 6’3″ guard, plays much taller. He is FIU’s leading rebounder, hauling in 8.2 boards a contest. Wright is also the Golden Panthers second leading scorer, dropping 15.3 points a game on the opposition. He brings high energy and is an aggressive scorer who can handle the ball and create his own shot with ease. Wright will come off of ball screens and usually makes quick and proper reads coming off of them.

Louisville should dominate the Golden Panthers inside, as they have just one player on their roster listed as taller than 6’8″ in 6’10″ sophomore center Brandon Moore. Moore only averages 19.0 minutes a game, and is anything but an offensive threat, scoring just 3.7 points and grabbing 2.7 boards a game. He does however average 2.2 blocks a game, and with Louisville’s bigs not being the most offensively talented group could cause some mayhem underneath.

On that note, while FIU is a very capable offensive team, their philosophy is defense, defense, defense. Taking on the persona of their Hall-of-Fame coach’s career, the Panthers take pride in shutting down the opposition, while also creating turnovers. So far this season, FIU has forced 107 turnovers (17.8 per-game). The Golden Panthers are also holding the opposition to 70.8 points-per-game on 41.6 percent shooting from the floor.

The Cardinals defense has limited its opponents to 36.4% shooting while forcing an average of 19.5 turnovers per game. Again it’s early, but thus far Louisville has impressed on the defensive side of the ball. Against a team with a similar style of play, I think the Cards will continue to excel at home this season and their defense will be a little more intense aided by the home crowd. Louisville rolls to an easy victory and the Global Sports Shootout Championship.

The best news for Cards fans who will be in attendance is with both squads averaging over 70 points per game this year, free cheese from Tumbleweed is all but a lock!!!

Louisville 92, Florida International 76

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