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Louisville-Indiana State preview: Cards welcome Missouri Valley foe to the Yum Center

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Larry Bird is not walking through that door, folks.

Louisville Cardinals (2-0) vs. Indiana State Sycamores (0-1)

Game Time: 8:10 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Jay Alter (play-by-play) and Malcom Huckaby (analyst)

Officials: Raymie Styons, Tony Henderson, Clarence Armstrong

Favorite: Louisville by 22.5

Series: Louisville leads, 6-1

Last Meeting: Louisville won 83-43 on Dec. 8, 2008 at Freedom Hall in Louisville

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Indiana State’s Season to Date:

Lost 86-81 at Dayton (Nov. 9)

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Indiana State:

Picked to finish sixth in the Missouri Valley before the season (Evansville was picked to finish eighth just in case you wanted a completely random comparison for absolutely no reason whatsoever), Indiana State kicked off its season last Saturday with hard-fought 86-81 loss at Dayton. Three Sycamores scored in double figures, but ISU had no answer for uber-athletic Dayton star Obi Toppin, who poured in 29 points.

ISU has no shortage of talent in its backcourt, a conversation that begins with 5’10 senior Jordan Barnes. After an all-conference season in 2017-18 where he averaged 17.4 ppg and shot 42.1 percent from three, Barnes’ production dipped a bit last season. His scoring averaged dropped 14.6 ppg and both his offensive rating and three-point numbers plummeted. Still, Barnes is capable of dropping 35 on any given night, making him exactly the type of player who can make a buy game like this scary.

While Barnes put up an impressive stat line of 19 points and nine rebounds against Dayton, he wasn’t Indiana State’s leading scorer. That distinction belongs to junior guard Tyreke Key, who dropped 21 points in just 23 minutes. Key was a Second Team All-Missouri Valley performer last season after averaging 17.4 ppg (tops in the conference) and shooting a scorching 44.8 percent from beyond the arc. Key isn’t quite as feast or famine as Barnes. He was incredibly consistent as a sophomore, failing to score in double figures only four times, scoring 20 or more points 13 times, but breaching the 30-point mark only once. Key really excels in two areas: Beyond the arc and getting to the free-throw line. He was No. 4 in the Missouri Valley last season in free-throw rate, and took advantage by being a 78.7 percent shooter from the charity stripe.

Indiana State’s third starting guard is Christian Williams, a 6’6 senior who spent his first two seasons at Iowa. Despite being the tallest of the three Sycamore guards, Williams is the one who spends the most time running the point. He’s a decent enough scoring threat himself — he scored 14 points and hit a three in the loss to Dayton — but his primary role is to set the table for Barnes and Key.

Where Indiana State really struggles is inside. The Sycamores don’t start a player taller than 6’7, and starting center Bronson Kessinger (6’7, 232-pounds, fantastic red goatee) is the only frontcourt player ISU has with any significant experience. Tre Williams, a 6’7 freshman, started alongside Kessinger in game one, but it’s apparent that ISU head coach Greg Lansing is going to play a lot of guys early in the season to try and figure out who gives them the best shot at having a more legitimate inside presence this season. Jake Laravia, a 6’8 freshman forward from Indianapolis, came off the bench to play 30 minutes against Dayton and produced eight points, six boards and the team’s only block.

Indiana State was the worst defensive team in the Missouri Valley last season. Part of that was Lansing’s style of play — the Sycamores like to get up and down more than any team in the MVC — but most of it was due to the lack of anything resembling a rim protector. The Sycamores ranked 307th in the country last season in both block percentage and defensive field goal percentage around the rim.

For the most part, Lansing — who is in his 10th season at ISU — likes to play a matchup zone. Because of their lack of size, Indiana State likes to defend with constant ball pressure and will sometimes extend that ball pressure beyond halfcourt. The issue for Indiana State last season (and against Dayton on Saturday) was that their guards couldn’t keep the guys they were guarding from going right around them and making things happen pretty easily in the lane.

This has the potential to be another game where Darius Perry and Steven Enoch both stuff that stat sheet. It’s also a game where Dwayne Sutton will have a chance to make up for his poor showing against Youngstown State. Indiana State was the 308th worst team in Division-I last season when it came to keeping their opponents off the offensive glass. Expect Sutton to be hungry for a healthy dose of second chance opportunities.

The bigger challenge for the Cardinals will likely come on the other end of the floor.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 51 consecutive home games in November, a streak which dates all the way back to a loss to Vanderbilt on November 30, 1972. The Cards are 37-0 in November games played inside the Yum Center.

—Louisville has won 74 of its last 78 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last nine seasons.

—Kareem Richardson, an assistant coach on Louisville’s 2012-13 national championship team, is an assistant coach for Indiana State this season. Richardson was the head coach at UMKC from 2013 through last season.

—Indiana State has never beaten a team ranked in the top four of the Associated Press top 25 poll. The Sycamores defeated No. 5 Arkansas Elite Eight of the 1979 NCAA tournament.

—Indiana State was picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Missouri Valley before the start of the season. Evansville was picked to finish eighth.

—Louisville was a member of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1964-75. The Cardinals won the MVC championship on six occasions in its 11 seasons in the league (1967, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975). U of L has a collective 81-35 record against current members of the MVC.

—Louisville’s last loss to Indiana State came on Dec. 4, 1948.

—Indiana State freshman guard Cobie Barnes played at Floyd Central High School just across the river. Starting center Bronson Kessinger played at Corydon High School.

—Louisville has a 45-6 record during the month of November over the last nine years, winning 25 of its last 29 games in that month.

—Louisville has an 82-6 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 38 of their last 41 home games against non-conference foes.

—Louisville has won 149 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 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 85, Indiana State 62