Louisville Cardinals (0-9, 0-2) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-1)
Game Time: 9 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Doug Sherman (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analysis)
Favorite: Western Kentucky by 7.5
Series: Louisville leads, 42-40
Last Meeting: Western Kentucky won 82-72 on Dec. 28, 2021 in Bowling Green
Western Kentucky’s Season to Date:
About Western Kentucky:
Louisville will look to avoid an unthinkable 0-10 start to its 2022-23 season against a Western Kentucky team that has the talent to compete in just about any major conference in America.
The Hilltoppers have not played an overly challenging non-conference schedule (nor will they), but they’re off to an 8-1 start thanks primarily to some very familiar faces.
Junior guard Dayvion McKnight, a former Collins High star who was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball for 2020, leads the team in scoring (14.2 ppg) and assists (5.3 apg), and is also averaging over two steals per contest. He’s coming off a monster 32-point effort against Wright State where he was an absurd 13-of-17 from the field. McKnight has turnover issues and he’s not a legitimate threat from the outside, but I don’t think Louisville has a defender who has shown any ability to keep him from getting to the rim. The Cardinal rim protectors inside — who haven’t done much rim protecting so far this season — are going to need to step up.
Also back this season is Jairus Hamilton (previous stops at Boston College and Maryland), who averaged 12.7 ppg last season and is scoring at a 9.4 ppg clip so far this year. The 6’8 Hamilton is the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6.1 rpg. He’s a rock solid contributor who may not do anything spectacularly, but who’s always going to provide a healthy amount of production.
Luke Frampton is also back and is once again a lethal outside threat. He’s only scored two points in the Hilltoppers’ last two games, but he’s shooting 58.3 percent from three for the season and has made four or more triples in five of WKU’s nine games. Louisville has done a really good job on Frampton the last two seasons, but this year’s Cards have certainly struggled with marking good shooters on the perimeter.
Boise State transfer Emmanuel Akot (started his career at Arizona) has perhape been Rick Stansbury’s most consistent contributor to date. The 6’8 senior has scored at least 9 points in every game this season and has also made at least one three-pointer in every game this season. He’s shooting 46.0 percent from three for the season, and also plays with a motor that we haven’t seen from his hosts at any point so far this year.
Perhaps the Hilltopper that you remain the most familiar with is sophomore center Jamarion Sharp. At 7’5, Sharp is the tallest player in college basketball and the tallest player in the history of the WKU program. His offensive numbers are down from a year ago, but he still leads the nation in block percentage and is averaging 4.8 swats per game. He dominated the inside against U of L in last season’s win, finishing with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
What Western Kentucky does well: Shoot the three (19th-best in the country), block shots (41st-best in the country), share the ball, create turnovers with steals (13th-best in the country), and take care of the ball.
What Western Kentucky does not do well: Rebound, defend in transition, shoot free-throws (66.1 percent).
—At 82 total games, Western Kentucky is the Louisville’s third most played opponent in program history. Only Cincinnati and Memphis have faced the Cardinals more times on the hardwood.
—Louisville has won 26 of the last 30 games against Western Kentucky. The Cardinals had nine straight over the Hilltoppers before last season’s loss in Bowling Green.
—Louisville is 0-9 for the first time since it lost the first 11 games of the 1940-41 season. That Cardinal team finished 2-14.
—The Cardinals’ 0-9 start is the worst start to a season by any team in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
—Louisville is 0-9 against the spread so far this season and has yet to come within seven points of covering a spread.
—Western Kentucky’s 8-1 start is its best start to a season in 15 years.
—Louisville has yet to play a game this season in which it has as many or more assists than turnovers. The Cardinals rank 356th out of 363 Division-I teams in turnover rate, and 347th in assist percentage.
—WKU is 11-9 against Power Five teams since the start of the 2017-18 season. The Hilltoppers’ most recent Power Five win was over Louisville on Dec. 18, 2021. WKU’s most recent Power Five win on the road was at Alabama on Dec. 19, 2020. This is the 17th of 21 Power Five contests that WKU has played away from home.
—Louisville hasn’t lost back-to-back games to Western Kentucky since 1949.
—Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury is 1-2 all-time against Louisville.
—WKU and Louisville are two of 22 teams in Division-I that have father-son, coach-player duos.
—In WKU’s win over Wright State, Dayvion McKnight became the ninth player in college basketball since 2010-11 to log at least this stat line or better: 32 points, three assists, four steals, four rebounds and 76% FG.
—Western Kentucky is 59-63 all-time against current members of the ACC. Head coach Rick Stansbury is 6-10 against the conference.
—Louisville has lost six consecutive games by 15 points or more for the first time in program history.
—Louisville is one of just two power conference teams over the last 40 years to start a season 0-9.
—Louisville has a 50-17 record in the month of December over the last nine years.
—Louisville is 140-81 all-time against current members of Conference USA.
—Louisville is 217-13 over the last 20 seasons and 14-1 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more.
—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 131-0 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.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Western Kentucky 68, Louisville 65