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College Basketball Preview: Gardner-Webb vs. Louisville

Drexel Dragons @ #20 Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010
Time: 3:37 pm EST
T.V.: WHAS (Ch. 11 in Louisville; also: Wazoo Sports statewide) Drew Deener, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst.
Radio: WKRD (790 AM, 101.7 FM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst. (also SIRIUS channel 127)
Series History: first meeting
Officials: Ed Corbett, Tim Clougherty, Gary Prage

Things were going well for the Cardinals, flying high at 8-0 and playing great team basketball. That was until this past Tuesday night when Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons came into the KFC Yum! Center and walked out with the first ever victory by a visiting team in Louisville’s new arena.

The Cardinals were forced into playing Drexel’s style of ball and got crushed on the boards en route to a 52-46 defeat, their first of the season. Drexel was not a bad basketball squad; Gardner-Webb isn’t bad either, but they aren’t that good. Though this is Louisville’s first meeting with Gardner-Webb, most people in the Bluegrass State are likely familiar with the name as the Runnin’ Bulldogs went into Rupp and defeated the Cardinals in-state rivals in Billy Gillispie’s second game at Kentucky back in 2007.

In that Kentucky game, Gardner-Webb employed an assistant coach by the name of Chris Holtman (a native of Nicholasville, KY). The following year Holtman was an assistant at Ohio University when the Cardinals won 91-56 on Dec 7, 2008. Now Holtman is in his first-year as head coach at Gardner-Webb and has brought passion, energy and focus into a program that has been lacking for several years. In the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ opener, they upset Atlantic 10 member Charlotte. Gardner-Webb won just eight times last year, and are two wins away from reaching that total already and we haven’t even turned the calendar year on this season.

The Bulldogs are very young due to a massive roster turnover in the offseason, they feature five freshman and four sophomores on the roster.

Gardner-Webb’s main scoring threat is senior forward Jonathan Moore. Moore averages 15.5 points a game, the only Bulldog in double figures. However he recently went down to injury and GW will be without their best player indefinitely after he went down in their last game at Arizona State on December 11th with a broken foot.

Holtman’s squad is well balanced though, they have five other players averaging 6.5 points or more a contest. Depth wise, they can match up with Louisville, talent wise they cannot. Only Moore and freshman point guard Luke Davis have proven to be capable outside threats, so someone is going to have to step up and fill Moore’s role. Davis has been named two-time Big South Conference Freshman of the Week so far in 2010-2011 and is fourth in the league in assists with 4.1 a game. He is a consummate passer who is a perfect fit for Gardner-Webb’s new offensive system under Holtman.

Sophomore forward Stephon Johnson is the only Bulldog to start in all 13 games so far. He is an athletic southpaw who runs the floor effortlessly and has the ability to play very well in transition. Johnson is the team’s second leading scorer at 9.2 points a tilt and is also second on the squad with 5.3 boards a game. Leading the team in rebounds for the third strait year is the 10th leading rebounder in Gardner-Webb history so far, junior forward Joshua Hensley. Hensley is an aggressive, yet undersized forward, standing just 6′ 3″ tall.

Coming off their first loss of the year Louisville will be focused and Gardner-Webb isn’t going to be able to keep up with the Cards, especially without Moore. Louisville runs away with this one.

Louisville 92, Gardner-Webb 68

Fun Fact: Artis Gilmore, the former center for the Kentucky Colonels, played for Gardner-Webb when it was a two-year school. LET’S BRING THE NBA BACK TO KENTUCKY!!!


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