Louisville Cardinals (6-3) vs. Lipscomb Bisons (7-2)
Game Time: 7:05 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Networks/Fox Sports South in Louisville
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst)
Officials: Roger Ayers, Bert Smith, Tony Henderson
Favorite: Louisville by 11.5
Series: Louisville leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Louisville won 45-32 on Feb. 8, 1936 in Nashville
Probable Starting Lineups:
Lipscomb’s Season to Date:
Lipscomb is coming off a 2017-18 season in which it appeared in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. The Bisons produced an offensive explosion in the Atlantic Sun championship game, hitting triple figures in a 108-96 upset of top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast. They wrapped up a 23-10 season with an 84-66 loss to North Carolina in the first round of the Big Dance.
The Bisons return all five starters and their top six scorers from last year’s team, which is why they were the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Sun. They’ve made good on their preseason hype so far, racing out to a 7-2 start that includes road wins over No. 18 TCU (still the Horned Frogs’ only loss this year) and SMU. Lipscomb’s only losses on the young season have come from their annual “Battle of the Boulevard” home and home series with rival Belmont. The Bisons lost 87-83 at home and 76-74 on the road to Belmont, which is currently 7-1.
Averaging 85.6 points per game, Lipscomb is the 18th-highest scoring team in Division-I. They’re led by the senior duo of Rob Marberry and Garrison Mathews, who average 16.9 and 16.7 ppg, respectively.
Marberry, a 6’7 forward who does nearly all of his damage in the post, has hit double figures in every game in which he’s appeared this season, and has dropped 26 in each of Lipscomb’s last two contests. He began his career at Western Kentucky, playing a minimal role for the Hilltoppers as a freshman during the 2014-15 season.
Matthews, the preseason Player of the Year in the A-Sun, is currently 10th all-time in Lipscomb’s scoring list with 1,878 career points, and is sixth on the active career scoring leaders list in Division I. A versatile scorer, he averaged 21.7 ppg as a junior and 20.4 as a sophomore. After a scorching hot start to his senior year, he enters Wednesday night’s game in something of a slump. He’s been held to a single digit point total in three of Lipscomb’s last four games, an unusual span of futility which seems to be screaming for a breakout performance.
Kenny Cooper is the quick point guard who makes the Bisons offense go, and also the guy best-equipped to handle the ball pressure that the bigger, more athletic Cardinals are likely to bring. He was arguably the best player on the floor in the team’s upset of TCU, a game in which he hit 8-of-12 shots, scored 17 points and dished out four assists. The other Lipscomb starters are terrific, but Cooper is the one who has power conference quickness and athleticism. He’s also the team’s best on-ball defender and most capable rip and run threat. If he doesn’t play well on Wednesday, it’s hard to envision the Bisons springing the upset.
Senior forward Eli Pepper, a Princeton, Ky. native, isn’t much of a scorer, but is the second all-time leading rebounder in Lipscomb history. He’s received significant help inside this year from freshman center Ahsan Asadullah, who is averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds despite playing just 13.9 minutes per game. Asadullah was sensational in Lipscomb’s 107-81 win over Navy on Sunday, scoring 20 points on a perfect 10-of-10 shooting from the field, and also grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
As the most experienced team in Division-I, it’s unlikely that Lipscomb will be intimidated by the bright lights of the KFC Yum Center. The Bisons have 6,703 career points on their roster, easily the most of any program in the country. For reference, Kansas State is second with 5,159.
Lipscomb enters Wednesday night’s game ranked No. 46 in the NET Rankings, and No. 73 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.
—Louisville has a 78-5 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 34 of their last 36 home games against non-conference opponents, and are 5-0 at home this season.
—Louisville is fourth in the nation in free-throw attempts per field goal attempts (260/502, 51.8 percent) and is third in the nation with 27.1 percent of its points coming from free-throws.
—Like Louisville, Lipscomb The Bisons is one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to getting to the line and converting. They are 166-of-216 at the charity stripe, good for 76.9 percent and the 20th-best mark in Division I.
—The last time Louisville faced Lipscomb, the Cardinals were coming off a game against Western Kentucky in which head coach “Red” Money pulled his team off the court to protest the officiating.
Louisville's last game vs. Lipscomb followed an infamous game vs. WKU in which UofL head coach C.V. "Red" Money pulled his team from the court to protest the officiating, resulting in a 2-0 forfeit.— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) December 10, 2018
Among Money's complaints was that WKU used lots of jersey numbers ending in 6. pic.twitter.com/vf8Kr9Sd2A
—The 30,528 days between this game and the most recent between Louisville and Lipscomb is the longest gap for any opponent in the history of Cardinal basketball.
—Louisville has a 39-8 record during the month of December over the last six years, and is 2-1 so far this season.
—Lipscomb has won 15 of 18 games dating back to last season, including a 9-1 mark on the road. The Bisons are already 4-1 away from home this season.
—Louisville has scored 80 or more points in six of its nine games and ranks 51st in the nation in scoring offense at 81.7 points per game.
—This is the sixth time in its last seven games that Louisville has faced a team ranked in the top 75 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.
—Lipscomb ranks 26th nationally in forcing 17.44 turnovers per game and 21st in turnover margin at 4.7.
—Louisville is 8-1 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Sun.
—Lipscomb brought back 91.5 percent of an offense that ranked 23rd in the nation last season at 82.1 points per game.
—The Bisons are one of just two Division-I teams that can claim three or more players with 1,000 career points to their credit. The other is Nevada, and all five of the Wolf Pack’s 1,000-point scorers are transfers.
—Louisville has won 147 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 16 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 80, Lipscomb 73