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Louisville-Kent State preview: Cards look to stay perfect at home

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The Golden Flashes are the only thing standing between U of L and a 7-0 start at the KFC Yum Center.

Louisville Cardinals (7-3) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (8-1)

Game Time: 4:05 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: Regional Sports Networks/Fox Sports South in Louisville

Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) and Brian Oliver (analyst)

Officials: Leslie Jones, Tim Comer, Jeb Hartness

Favorite: Louisville by 13

Series: Louisville leads 1-0

Last Meeting: Louisville won 85-67 on Feb. 18, 1951 at Louisville Gardens

Probable Starting Lineups:

Kent State’s Season to Date:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Kent State:

Off to its best start in five years, Kent State enters Saturday’s game against Louisville riding a six-game winning streak and owning an overall record of 8-1. The Golden Flashes pulled a 77-75 road upset of Vanderbilt on Nov. 23, but it should be noted that Darius Garland, the Commodores’ star freshman point guard, tore his ACL early in that game. KSU has only beaten one other team ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 150, and that was No. 143 Wright State. The team’s lone loss was a 77-70 home setback at the hands of Liberty on Nov. 16.

A preseason First Team All-MAC selection, Jaylin Walker leads Kent State and ranks 8th in the nation in scoring at 24.5 ppg. He missed the first five games of the season because of a suspension. In his first game back, Walker scored 22 points in the team’s upset of Vanderbilt. He followed up that performance by dropping 36 on Detroit Mercy five days later. Walker is currently shooting a scoring 51.4 percent from three and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Senior point guard Jalen Avery is the other player to watch for Kent State. He’s second on the team in scoring at 15.2 ppg, and is No. 4 in the nation in assist to turnover rate at 5.43. He led the nation in that category a year ago. Avery’s scoring has dipped a bit since Walker’s return, which is understandable, but the Covington, Ky. native is still the driving force behind a Flashes offense currently averaging 82.2 ppg.

Kent State doesn’t play at a scorching place like Lipscomb. They take care of the ball, they shoot the three well, they’re terrific at getting to the free-throw line, but they also send their opponents to the charity strip far too often. They enter Saturday ranked No. 147 by Ken Pom and No. 93 in the NET Rankings.

Notable:

—Louisville has a 79-5 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 35 of their last 37 home games against non-conference opponents, and are 6-0 at home this season.

—Louisville is sixth in the nation in free-throw attempts per field goal attempts (282/563, 50.1 percent) and is third in the nation with 26.9 percent of its points coming from free-throws.

—Jordan Nwora is the first Louisville player in 17 years to score 20 or more points in at least six of the Cardinals first 10 games.

—Louisville has a 40-8 record during the month of December over the last six years, and is 3-1 so far this season.

—Kent State’s four NCAA tournament victories are the third most of any team in the Mid-American Conference. It’s six appearances in the Big Dance are the fourth most.

—Kent State is 12-31 all-time against current members of the ACC.

—At 96.7 percent, Ryan McMahon currently leads the nation in free-throw percentage.

—This is the seventh time in Louisville’s last eight games that the Cardinals have faced a team ranked in the top 100 of the NET.

—Louisville has scored 80 or more points in six of its 10 games.

—Kent State is one of six teams in Division-I that has played three or more away games and is still unbeaten on the road. The Golden Flashes are 3-0 away from home.

—Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff is three wins away from becoming the winningest coach in program history.

—Jaylin Walker currently ranks third in Kent State history in three-point field goals made (220) and second in three-point field goals attempted (645).

—KSU point guard Jalen Avery was the 2017-18 Division I statistical champion for assist/turnover ratio. Avery became the program’s first statistical champion recognized by the NCAA. With a 5.04, Avery was one of just three players in the nation with an assist turnover ratio above 4.0.

—Chris Mack is 3-0 all-time in games against Kent State.

—Louisville is 25-5 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference.

—Louisville is 12-10 all-time in games played on Dec. 10, winning eight of its last nine contests played on this date.

—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, Kent State 67