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Louisville-Southeastern Louisiana preview

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The Cards look to bounce back from last Friday’s embarrassing loss to DePaul.

Louisville Cardinals (6-3, 1-0) vs. Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-6)

Game Time: 6:01 p.m. ET

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Jay Alter (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 23

Officials: A.J. Desai, Jeffrey Anderson, Nick Heater

Series: First Meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Southeastern Louisiana’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About SE Louisiana:

After a disappointing 2020-21 season, third-year Southeastern Louisiana head coach David Kiefer has a squad that he feels should compete for a Southland Conference championship thanks to four returning starters and a loaded transfer class.

The returns have been mixed at best so far, with the Lions posting several competitive losses but just one victory over a Division-I opponent — a 72-68 home triumph over Troy two Sundays ago. SLU now kicks off its toughest stretch of the season with consecutive road games against Louisville, Iowa and Iowa State before turning their focus to conference play at the start of the new year.

While their 4-6 record might not indicate it, SE Louisiana likely has the most natural talent of any Southland team outside of reigning champion Nicholls State.

Gus Okafor is a 6’6 do it all off-guard who transferred into the program from Longwood before last season. He can shoot, drive, rebound, defend, and has the type of athleticism that you don’t typically see at this level. He’s coming off back-to-back subpar performances against Troy and Southern, but still leads the team in scoring at 13.5 ppg. Okafor is prone to taking bad shots that don’t come out of the natural flow of the Lions offense, which is what Louisville will need to force him into taking Tuesday night.

Keon Clergeot, a sixth-year senior who began his college career at Memphis all the way back in 2016-17 and spent two seasons at UMass after that, is the team’s best playmaker. He’s strong, quick, and thrives on getting around defenders and getting to the free-throw line. He’s also very good at finishing through contact, an area where U of L has struggled so far this season.

Last season, he ranked sixth in the entire country in free-throw rate and finished the year with a whopping 192 free-throw attempts. He began this season a bit slow, but has scored 15 or more points in each of the Lions last three games. No disrespect to Okafor or anyone else on the Lions roster, but this is the primary guy the Cards have to focus on slowing down.

Inside, SLU has been led by 6’6 Jalyn Hinton, a D-II transfer who also spent some time at Jacksonville early in his college career. Hinton is extremely athletic and has blocked four or more shots four times already this season, but Louisville’s superior size should keep him from being able to do the things he’s best at.

Antonio Gordon started 12 games for Kansas State last season and has the size (6’9, 215-pounds) to be an extremely effective frontcourt player in the Southland. He’s not tremendously skilled on offense but he finishes well enough around the rim. Foul trouble has been his biggest issue so far during his stint as a Lion.

Four other Southeastern Louisiana players average at least 15 minutes of court time per night. That depth should allow the Lions to withstand Louisville’s pressure and up-tempo offense without completely losing their legs.

SE Louisiana has lived at the free-throw line under Kiefer. Only four teams in the country scored a higher percentage of their total points from the free-throw line last season, a stat that reflects both how solid the Lions were at drawing contact and how bad they were at making shots from everywhere else on the floor. While SLU isn’t getting to the line at quite as high a rate so far this season, it’s still a place where a solid chunk of their offense has come from.

Outside of the charity stripe, SLU’s offensive numbers are pretty woeful. They’re shooting just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc (310th in the country), and 47.1 percent (247th in the country) inside it. They’re also turning the ball over on 20.5 percent of their possessions, ranking them 250th in Division-I in turnover rate.

Defensively, SE Louisiana is constantly gambling. On most defensive possessions they’re either going to force a turnover or surrender a wide open look. They force turnovers on 22.5 percent of their defensive possessions (50th-best in the country), but are allowing opponents to shoot a blistering 55.6 percent on two-point shots (311th in D-I) and 34.9 percent from three (246th in D-I).

So long as Louisville takes care of the ball and ... everybody say it together ... knocks down some open shots, this should be the perfect opportunity for multiple guys who have been slumping to regain some offensive confidence.

Notable:

Southeastern Louisiana will be Louisville’s 328th different opponent in men’s basketball. The Cards are 244-83 in first-time meetings, including 55-3 since 2002-03. The only three losses over that span came against California, Baylor and Texas Tech.

—Southeastern Louisiana is the only first-time opponent for the Cardinals this season.

—There will be a toy collection before Tuesday night’s game. New toys for any age or gender will be collected at the entrances of the KFC Yum Center prior to the game.

—Louisville and SLU have one common opponent this season in Southern. The Cardinals defeated Jaguars by 12, while the Lions lost to them by six.

—Southeastern Louisiana is 0-5 all-time against ACC opponents.

—Louisville is 7-0 all-time against current members of the Southland Conference.

—SLU assistant coach Mark Lieberman was an assistant coach at Louisville for the 2010-11 season before serving as the Cardinals’ Director of Basketball Operations in 2011-12.

—Louisville has an all-time 16-6 record in games played on Dec. 14, winning 11 of its last 12 games played on that date.

—Southeastern Louisiana is 27th in the nation in steals per game (9.6), 49th in three-point field goals per game (9.4), and 40th in assists per game (16.4).

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Louisville is a 23-point favorite in this game. The Cardinals are 4-2 straight up as a favorite so far this season, with both of those losses coming at home.

—Louisville has a 48-14 record in the month of December over the last eight years.

—Louisville is 32-2 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 129-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 79, Southeastern Louisiana 57