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Louisville-Central Arkansas preview: Cards look to build off big week

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It’s game day once again inside the KFC Yum Center.

Louisville Cardinals (5-2) vs. Central Arkansas Bears (3-4)

Game Time: 7:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: WAVE-3

Announcers: Kent Taylor (play-by-play) and Kendrick Haskins (analyst)

Officials: Brian Dorsey, Lee Cassell, Joe Lindsay

Favorite: Louisville by 21

Series: First meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:

Central Arkansas’ Season to Date:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Central Arkansas:

UCA is still adjusting a bit to life without Jordan Howard and Mathieu Kamba, the free-wheeling guard duo that led the Bears to 17 wins and a 10-8 record in the Southland Conference last season. The pair accounted for half the team’s scoring, and Howard — who averaged 25.1 ppg — was the Southland’s Player of the Year.

It’s been more of a collective effort for Central Arkansas in 2018-19, with five players averaging 9.1 ppg or more, but no one scoring more than DeAndre Jones’ 14.1 ppg. Jones, a 5’11 sophomore from Boise, also leads the team in assists (4.3 apg) and is somehow third in rebounding (4.0 rpg). He has scored 19 or more points in each of UCA’s last three games.

Through seven games, it appears as thought this Central Arkansas team will fit the mold of the Russ Pennell Central Arkansas teams that have come before it: They play at a scorching pace (35th-fastest in D-I), they struggle defensively (254th in adjusted defensive efficiency ... a Pennell has never finished a season ranked better than 268th in this category) and turnovers (276th in turnover percentage), but they like to let it fly from the outside, which can make them a dangerous opponent if they get atypically hot.

While Louisville should have a clear advantage in the paint, Central Arkansas does have more size than the typical mid/low major team. Hayden Koval is a 7-footer who enters Wednesday night averaging double figures in scoring (10.9 ppg), and Eddy Kayouloud is a gifted 6’7 wing from Paris who dropped 30 against Troy on Nov. 18. Koval, a sophomore, is still developing, but there are some who believe he has the potential to be one of the best mid-major big men in the country by his senior year. He swatted a school-record 105 shots as a freshman last season, This will be a nice test for Steven Enoch and company.

Despite that size, UCA is one of the worst rebounding teams Louisville will face this season. The Bears are also 289th in keeping opponents off the free-throw line, a troubling number when you’re going up against the No. 1 team in America when it comes to free throws attempted per field goals attempted. The Cards should own a decisive advantage on the glass, and they should continue their season-long trend of doing a significant amount of damage from the charity stripe.

Notable:

—This is the fourth time in 2018-19 that Louisville is facing an opponent it has never played previously.

—Central Arkansas will be Louisville’s 323rd different opponent in men’s basketball. The Cards are 240-82 in first-time meetings, including 51-2 since 2002-03. The only two losses over that span came against California and Baylor.

—Louisville has a 77-5 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 33 of their last 35 home games against non-conference opponents.

—Louisville has made 29 more free throws (174-of-225, .773) than its opponents have attempted (106-of-145). Louisville is second in the nation in free throw attempts per field goal attempts (225/382, 58.9 percent) and is second in the nation with 29.2 percent of its points coming from free throws.

—Central Arkansas has made 10 or more three-pointers in four of their seven games this season.

—Louisville has scored over 80 points in five of its seven games and the Cardinals are 42nd in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 83.1 points per game.

—Louisville is 6-0 all-time against opponents from the Southland Conference, a mark which includes this team’s season-opening win over Nicholls.

—Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell was the interim head coach at Arizona (after Lute Olsen’s retirement) when Louisville beat the Wildcats 103-64 in the 2009 NCAA Midwest Region semifinals in Indianapolis on March 27, 2009. That win is still tied for the largest margin of victory ever in a Sweet 16 game.

—Louisville has a 38-7 record during the month of December over the last six years.

—Louisville has an 18-6 record all-time in games played on Dec. 5, winning its last two on this date.

—Louisville has won 146 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 86, Central Arkansas 67