Louisville Cardinals (9-1, 2-0) vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (3-6)
Game Time: 12:01 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Roy Philpott (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)
Officials: Bill Covington, Jr., Jeb Hartness, Tim Comer
Favorite: Louisville by 32
Series: Louisville leads 52-22
Last Meeting: Louisville won 87-56 on Dec. 17, 2016 at the KFC Yum Center
Probable Starting Lineups:
Eastern Kentucky’s Season to Date:
About Eastern Kentucky:
In its second season under the direction of former Hargrave Military head coach A.W. Hamilton, Eastern Kentucky is off to a slow start. The Colonels opened the season with a 79-68 win over Chattanooga, and haven’t defeated a Division-I opponent since. Their six losses have come by an average of 19.0 ppg and have all been by eight points or more.
Eastern Kentucky will be the most up-tempo team Louisville faces this season. The Colonels currently rank third in the country in pace, trailing only Houston Baptist and Mississippi Valley State. They force a ton of turnovers (15th in the country in defensive turnover percentage), but unfortunately they give the ball away (334th in the country in offensive turnover percentage) even more frequently than they take it.
Despite playing at a pace that affords them more possessions than nearly every other team in Division-I, EKU has been a woeful offensive team to date. They average only 74.7 percent ppg despite their frenetic pace, a number that directly correlates with the fact that they shoot just 28.0 percent from beyond the arc (311th) and only 40.9 percent inside it (339th). The turnovers — currently occurring on nearly every fourth EKU possession — aren’t helping matters either.
The team’s scoring leader is sophomore guard Jomaru Brown (17.3 ppg), a 6’2 native of Raleigh. Brown is a volume scorer who doesn’t have a great idea of when to slow down. He has shot better than 50 percent from the field just twice this season, but one of those performances was a 41-point explosion against Western Kentucky on Nov. 15. He was 16-of-28 from the field in that game and buried four three-pointers. Brown is also as turnover prone as any guard Louisville will face this season. He’s averaging an absurd 5.6 turnovers per game against just 1.8 assists per game. He turned the ball over eight times in that game against WKU, which is one of four times this season he’s given the ball away eight or more times in a single game.
Grad transfer Ty Taylor — who began his career at Wichita State before playing two seasons at UNC Wilmington — is the team’s other double figure scorer. The 6’3 guard has been rock solid for Hamilton in recent weeks, scoring 11 points or more in each of EKU’s last five games. Taylor has turnover issues as well, but he’s a dangerous outside shooter who does a better job at playing within himself than Brown does.
Junior forward Darius Hicks, an NC State transfer, is the team’s leading rebounder (7.9 rpg) and fourth-leading scorer (8.0 ppg). He leads the team in minutes played and is by far Hamilton’s most consistent inside presence. Neither he nor frontcourt mate Tre King (9.1 ppg/5.3 rpg) are any sort of threat from beyond the arc.
With the style of play Hamilton wants the Colonels to play, EKU currently has nine players averaging at least 15.2 minutes per game of court time. They’ll run a ton of bodies at Louisville on Saturday afternoon, but as of yet, those many pieces haven’t quite come together to form something substantive.
One way for EKU to hang around in this game is by getting to the free-throw line. The Colonels shoot 72.9 percent from the charity stripe as a team, and are a respectable 112th in the country when it comes to getting to the line.
Eastern Kentucky enters Saturday’s game ranked No. 310 by Ken Pomeroy and No. 324 by the Sagarin Ratings.
—Louisville has won 14 consecutive games against Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels haven’t defeated the Cardinals since Dec. 4, 1963. That game was the first game ever played inside EKU’s McBrayer Arena.
—Louisville has won 79 of its last 83 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last nine seasons.
—Louisville is seventh in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.357).
—Eastern Kentucky ranks second in the country in turnovers forced per game (21.8) and fourth in the country in steals per game (11.0).
—Dwayne Sutton needs 10 points to reach 1,000 for his college career.
—Louisville and Eastern Kentucky have two common opponents in Western Kentucky and USC Upstate. The Cards defeated WKU by 17 and USC Upstate by 26, while the Colonels lost to WKU by 8 and to USC Upstate by 12.
—U of L will be holding its annual toy collection before Saturday’s game. New toys will be collected and subsequently donated to Norton’s Childrens Hospital and Home of the Innocents.
—Louisville is 6-3 all-time and 2-1 this season when playing as the No. 1 team in the AP poll.
—Through its first 10 games this season, Louisville has produced 21 runs of 8-0 or better, including an 8-0 run in the first half against Texas Tech in its last outing. The Cardinals had a season-best 17-0 run at Miami.
—Louisville has an 87-6 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 43 of their last 46 home games against non-conference foes.
—Louisville has won 151 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 87, Eastern Kentucky 55