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Louisville-Pitt preview: Cards look for season sweep of Panthers

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Any win will do at the moment.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 05 Pitt at Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (10-6, 4-3) at Pittsburgh Panthers (6-10, 1-4)

Game Time: 4:02 p.m.

Location: Petersen Events Center: Pittsburgh, Pa.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 4.5

Officials: Ted Valentine, Jerry Heater, Tim Clougherty

Series: Louisville leads, 21-6

Last Meeting: Louisville won, 75-72, on Jan. 5, 2022 in Louisville

Series History:

Possible Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Pittsburgh’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Pittsburgh:

Not a whole lot about the Panthers has changed in the 10 days since the last time these two teams met. Pitt bounced back from its narrow loss at the Yum Center with a home win over Boston College (69-67), and then got handled with relative ease by Syracuse (77-61) inside the Carrier Dome on Tuesday.

The vast majority of Pitt’s production so far this season has come from its starting five, and that starts with 6’9 sophomore forward John Hugley. Hugley currently leads Pitt in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). He was held to just 8 points and 8 rebounds in the loss to Syracuse, but was nearly unstoppable against BC, dropping a season-high 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Louisville did a great job on Hugley in the first meeting, but his low production was due largely to foul trouble that began with he and Malik Williams picking up double technicals in the game’s opening 90 seconds.

Junior guard Ithiel Horton missed the first 13 games of the season, but returned to the court against Louisville after criminal charges accusing him of punching a city police officer were dismissed. He hit three triples in that game against the Cards and scored 13 points. Unfortunately for Jeff Capel, Horton’s legal issues resurfaced shortly after the game and he has been held out of action ever since. It’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be back on the floor Saturday afternoon.

The backcourt duo of sophomore Femi Odukale and Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton have done all they can to replace the production of departed stars Justin Champagnie, Au’Diese Toney and Xavier Johnson. Both players are averaging double figures and both have the potential to go for 20 or more on a given night. Odukale shoots it well enough from the outside, but he’s particularly effective attacking off the bounce. Burton has scored in double figures in nine straight games and had a season-high 21 in the first meeting with Louisville.

Mouhamadou Gueye, a 6’9 senior who transferred in from Stony Brook, is the other Panther to be wary of. He’s a versatile forward who has stepped up his production dramatically in recent weeks, scoring 14 points or more in five of Pitt’s last six games. He went just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc against Louisville, but he’s hit at least one three in six straight games and his outside shot must be respected, especially with Horton out.

The one thing that Pitt continues to do at an elite level is get to the free-throw line. The Panthers rank first in the country in free-throw rate, getting to the stripe on nearly half of their offensive possessions. The issue is what happens once they get there. As a team, Pitt is currently shooting just 67.9 percent from the charity stripe, good for 266th-best in the country.

Louisville took three more free-throws than the Panthers in the first meeting and outscored them by 1 at the charity stripe. If they can duplicate that at the Pete on Saturday, they should be in good shape. Although should is a dangerous word with this team.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 17 of its last 18 games against Pitt. The Cards’ 89-86 overtime loss in January, 2019 snapped a 12-game winning streak against the Panthers and is their only loss in the series dating back to 2010.

—Chris Mack is 6-1 against Pitt as a head coach, including 4-1 at Louisville. His Xavier team defeated the Panthers in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.

—Pitt has made 258 free throws, while its opponents have attempted 266 free throws this season. The Panthers lead the ACC with 23.8 free throw attempts per game and have outscored the opposition by 75 points from the free throw line.

—The Panthers have been outrebounded just two times this season. Pitt ranks third in the ACC in rebounding margin (+4.93).

—Louisville will play 10 games during the month of January, marking the first time it has played as many in that month since the 1997-98 season, when the Cardinals played 11 games in January.

—Louisville has a 47-18 record during the month of January over the last six years.

—Louisville is 9-0 this season when shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponents.

—Pitt’s sophomore class - Noah Collier, John Hugley, William Jeffress and Femi Odukale - combines to average 33.9 points and 18.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Odukale (32.5), Jeffress (29.5 mpg.) and Hugley (29.2 mpg.) are three of the top four Panthers in minutes played per game and have combined to make 44 starts.

—The Panthers lead the NCAA in free throw rate (47.4 percent) and are one of just two schools with a free throw rate above 45.0 percent. Pitt is also first in the NCAA with 25.9 percent of its points coming from the free throw line.

—Louisville is 8-1 this season when outrebounding its opponents and also 8-1 when shooting more free-throws than their foes. Their only loss in both instances came Wednesday against NC State.

—Louisville is 216-12 over the last 20 seasons and 13-0 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more.

—Louisville is 166-7 over the past 20 seasons when shooting 50 percent or better and 13-0 over the last three.

—Louisville is 34-3 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 130-0 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 156 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 68, Pittsburgh 64