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Louisville vs. Pitt preview: Cards look to avenge lone ACC loss

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Payback will be on the minds of the Cardinals Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum Center.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Louisville Cardinals (14-5, 5-1) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (12-7, 2-4)

Game Time: 2:07 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: Raycom/WHAS-11 in Louisville

Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play) and Brian Oliver (analyst)

Officials: Pat Driscoll, Brian O’Connell, Tony Chiazza

Favorite: Louisville by 11

Series: Louisville leads, 16-6

Last Meeting: Pittsburgh won 89-86 in overtime on Jan. 9, 2019 in Pittsburgh

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Pittsburgh:

Since Pitt snapped its 25-game ACC losing streak with an 89-86 overtime win over Louisville on Jan. 9, the Panthers have lost a nailbiter to NC State, toppled then 11th-ranked Florida State by 13, and dropped back-to-back games by double digits to Syracuse and Duke. Otherwise, the blueprint for Jeff Capel’s team looks pretty similar to the one we read two and-a-half weeks ago.

Three of Pitt’s four leading scorers are still true freshmen, a group headlined by the backcourt duo of Xavier Johnson (16.6 ppg/4.4 apg) and Trey McGowens (13.3 ppg).

In the earlier game against Louisville, McGowens set a new Pitt single game freshman scoring record by torching the Cards for 33 points. The Panthers have been at their best this season when McGowens has been at his best. Case in point, he dropped 30 in the team’s win over Florida State, which came five days after his explosion against the Cards.

Johnson has remained the team’s most consistent producer on offense. He scored just 8 points in the loss to Duke earlier this week, the first time all season he’d been held to single digits in scoring. He enters Saturday as a 40.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc (best on the team), and an 82.9 percent shooter from the free-throw line (third best on the team).

Though they didn’t look the part in the first meeting with Louisville, Pitt is a team that has typically won with defense this season. The Panthers rank fifth in the ACC and are tied for 18th nationally in field goal percentage defense (.391). Conversely, they rank just 166th in Division-I in adjusted offensive efficiency.

STRENGTHS: Backcourt scoring, field goal percentage defense, getting to the free-throw line, making free-throws, forcing turnovers, three-point defense.

WEAKNESSES: Turnovers, outside shooting, rim protection, defensive rebounding, points off assists, points in the paint.

Notable:

—Before losing to Pitt earlier this month, Louisville had won 12 consecutive meetings with the Panthers.

—Louisville has a 45-12 record in its conference home games over the last six years. U of L has the fourth-most conference home wins in its five years in the ACC with a 30-9 ACC home record.

—Pitt has dropped 16 consecutive road contests, including its past 14 in conference play. The Panthers last ACC road win was an 83-72 decision at Boston College on Feb. 8, 2017.

—Pitt is averaging 81.1 points per game on 47.6 percent (323-of-679) shooting from the field in its 12 wins. In comparison, the Panthers have averaged just 66.3 points on 38.7 percent (155-of-401) shooting from the field in their seven losses.

—Louisville has won eight straight home games against Pitt and is 9-1 all-time against the Panthers in Louisville. U of L’s lone home loss to Pitt came on Jan. 15, 2006.

—Four of Pitt’s top five scorers are newcomers with first-year players accounting for 67.7 percent (973-of-1437) of the team’s scoring. Freshmen Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney account for 53.3 percent (766-of-1437) of the team’s scoring.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the past 17 seasons, excluding preseason polls (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and North Carolina).

—Pitt ranks third in the ACC with 18.7 made free-throws per game and have made 20 or more free-throws in a game eight times. Xavier Johnson (4.8) and Trey McGowens (4.7) combine for 9.5 made free throws per game while shooting 80.2 percent (182-of-227) from the charity stripe.

—Chris Mack is 1-1 all-time in games against Pitt. His first Xavier team (2009-10) upset the third-seeded Panthers 71-68 in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.

—Pitt currently ranks 22nd in Division-I in KenPom’s Raw Defensive Efficiency rankings. Last season, the Panthers ranked 289th in that same category.

—Jordan Nwora is currently the second-most improved scorer in the nation with his 18.2 scoring average up 12.5 ppg from his 5.7 average last year.

—Two years ago, Louisville posted the largest margin of victory for a road team in ACC history and the third-largest margin for any league game in its 106-51 victory at Pitt (1-24-17).

—Pitt has dropped two consecutive games and is 4-4 all-time against teams ranked 23rd in the AP Poll.

—Louisville is 1-1 all-time in games against Jeff Capel. The Cards throttled Capel’s sixth-seeded Oklahoma Sooners, 74-48, in the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament.

—Louisville is 13-0 this season when shooting a better percentage from the field than its opponent.

—Louisville has won 148 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 74, Pittsburgh 63