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Louisville vs. Western Kentucky preview: In-state foes square off for the 79th time

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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (8-1) vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS (6-4)

Game Time: 12:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPNU

Announcers: Jim Barbar (play-by-play) and Len Elmore (analyst)

Officials: Les Jones, Bill Covington, Jr., Raymond Styons, Jr.

Favorite: Louisville by 21

All-Time Series: Tied at 39

Last Meeting: Louisville won 76-67 on Dec. 20, 2014 in Bowling Green

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Western Kentucky:

Western Kentucky enters Saturday's game havng won three of its last four games, including a 79-70 victory over Alabama A&M on Wednesday. Chris Harrison-Docks led four Hilltoppers in double figures with 18 points, while Ben Lawson grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson has been a star for Western Kentucky so far this season, averaging team-highs in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). Johnson has notched double-doubles in four of the 'Toppers' 10 games. Perhaps the key for WKU, however, is senior forward Nigel Snipes. Ray Harper's team is getting an average of 17.1 ppg from Snipes in victories, and just 10.9 ppg in losses.

WKU is picked sixth in the 14-team Conference USA this year after finishing fourth in the league with a 20-12 overall record last season.

Notable

--Western Kentucky (78 games) is the third most-played opponent in Louisville basketball history, trailing only Cincinnati (99 games) and Memphis (89 games).

--Louisville has currently won six straight over WKU to even up the all-time series at 39 games apiece. U of L has also won 23 of the last 26 games against their in-state foes. If the Cardinals win on Saturday, it will be the first time they have led the series with the 'Tops since 1932.

--New toys will be collected and subsequently donated to Kosair Children's Hospital at the Cardinals' Dec. 19 men's basketball game against Western Kentucky. Toys for all ages and genders will be collected at the entrances.

--Louisville sophomore forward Anas Mahmoud and freshman forward Deng Adel are both expected to dress but not play in the game.

--WKU is 35-95 all-time against ranked teams, including a loss at No. 12 Xavier earlier this season, and 5-13 against Louisville when the Cardinals are ranked.

--UofL leads in the nation in scoring margin (+31.3) and rebounding margin (+17.8), is second in scoring defense (55.6) and third in field goal percentage defense (.344).

--Louisville is 23-3 in the month of December over the last four years.

--Louisville and Western Kentucky are among the winningest programs of all time. The Cardinals' 1,763 total victories are the 10th-most in college basketball history while WKU is 16th with 1,725 wins.

--This is WKU's fourth game at the six-year old KFC Yum Center, with the Hilltoppers having played Louisville twice previously in 2011 and 2013 and Kentucky in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

--Western Kentucky is in its second year in Conference USA, a league in which the Cardinals were charter members and participated in the league for 10 years (1995-2005). UofL has a collective 135-80 series record against current members of C-USA, having previously faced 10 of its 14 members. Louisville and WKU were charter members of the Ohio Valley Conference in 1948. The Cardinals remained in the OVC one season.

--Rick Pitino is 9-1 all-time against Western Kentucky.

--WKU ranks 29th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.401), 60th in three-pointers per game (8.7) and 59th in blocked shots per game (5.0).

--Louisville is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage (.525). UofL has shot above 50 percent in eight of its nine games. The Cards shot 50 percent or above on eight occasions all last season. UofL leads the ACC in scoring (86.9 ppg).

--Louisville has opened with an 11-1 record in each of the last three seasons.

--Louisville's 131 victories over the last five years are the second-most wins in the nation in that stretch. Louisville and Wichita State are the only schools in the nation to win 30 games in three of the last four seasons, including a school-record 35 victories amassed by Louisville's 2012-13 NCAA Championship team.

--This is the final game of the current 4-year contract between the two programs. There is no word yet on whether or not the series will continue after this season.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 79, Western Kentucky 60