Louisville-Florida International Preview: Cards Flock South

Andy Lyons

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (10-1) AT FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL PANTHERS (8-4)

Game Time: 6:07 p.m.

Location: U.S. Century Bank Arena: Miami, Fla.

Television: Fox Sports 1

Announcers: Adam Alexander (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst)

Spread: Louisville by 20.5

Officials: Gerry Pollard, Jose Carrion and Tony Henderson

All-Time Series: Louisville leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Louisville won 79-55 last season in the Billy Minardi Classic at the Yum Center

Probable Starting Lineups:

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Statistics:

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Relevant Video:


Isiah's still sitting in there.

About Florida International:

The Panthers (8-4) have been idle since Dec. 7 when FIU beat Florida Gulf Coast 72-61 as Tymell Murphy totaled 23 points, three blocked shots and three steals. Rakeem Buckles added a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Buckles played portions of three seasons at Louisville before transferring to FIU. He suffered through two ACL injuries with the Cardinals. As a sophomore, he averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in 16 games, including 10 starting assignments. He had ranked among the Big East top ten in rebounding before he broke his finger that season.

Last season, FIU was coached by former UofL assistant coach Richard Pitino (2007-09, 2011-12), son of Cards' coach Rick Pitino. Richard guided FIU to an 18-14 record in his lone season there, producing the most victories at the school since 1997-98. FIU had won a collective 26 games in the three years before his arrival.

FIU comes into Saturday's contest averaging 72.3 points-per-game, while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 32.6 percent from 3-point range. The Panthers are converting 69.5 percent of its attempts from the free-throw line. Defensively, FIU is allowing 66.1 points-per-game (No. 2 in the conference) as the opposition is shooting 39.7 percent from the floor (No. 2 in the conference). The Panthers are out-rebounding their opponents 493-396, averaging 41.1 boards-per-contest. FIU's 493 total rebounds ranks No. 4 the nation. The Panthers have also recorded 60 total blocked shots (No. 2 in the conference)

Leading the Panthers offensively is Murphy, who comes into Saturday's game averaging 16.3 points-per-game (No. 11 in the conference). Buckles is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.7 points-per-game (No. 14 in the conference) and leads the team in rebounding 10.5 boards-per-game (No. 1 in the conference and No. 13 in the nation). Murphy ranks No. 6 in the conference in rebounds, grabbing 8.3 boards-per-contest. Both Murphy and Buckles have combined for 45 total blocks - the most by any duo in C-USA this season.

Notable:

--Louisville has won 11 of its last 12 games played before Christmas under U of L Coach Rick Pitino. All but three of those have been U of L home games. The Cardinals beat Western Kentucky on Dec. 22, 2012 in U of L's last game before Christmas last season.

--Louisville leads the nation in turnover margin (+9.4) and in fewest turnovers per game (9.1). U of L has committed 10 or fewer turnovers in 10 of its last 14 games dating back to last year.

--The Cards are 23-4 in December over the last four years.

--Florida International is 0-21 all-time versus ranked opponents.

--Florida International is 0-3 all-time versus ranked opponents at home. Louisville will be the highest-ranked opponent to play the Panthers on their home court.

--U of L enters Saturday's game leading the nation in scoring margin (+25.7).

--FIU is ineligible for postseason play this season after posting sub-par APR scores.

--Louisville ranks among the nation's top 16 in seven statistical categories through games of Dec. 15. Individually Luke Hancock is 14th in free-throw percentage (.914), Chris Jones is 62nd in steals (1.8 spg), and Montrezl Harrell is 17th in field goal percentage.

--FIU is 211-170 all-time at U.S. Century Bank Arena.

--Louisville won the 2013 Division-I national championship.

Ken Pom Prediction: Louisville 80, Florida International 63

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