In its first meeting with Louisville this season, the USF men’s basketball team struggled in a home loss at the Sun Dome. The Cardinals jumped out to a 23-point lead as the half concluded and didn’t ease up, pushing the lead to 40 points before the game was over.
Since this game, the two teams have gone in opposite directions. The No. 12 Cardinals have won four of their past five games, the only loss from No. 7 Cincinnati. The Bulls, on the other hand, have only won two of their seven games.
With the schedule winding down and both teams jockeying for a better position in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), tonight’s game is significant for both teams. Louisville has a potential regular season conference title on the line, only trailing the Bearcats by 1.5 games.
USF’s hopes for the rest of the season are not as high as Louisville’s, but the team is looking to avoid the bottom of the AAC standings and prepare for the conference tournament.
The Bulls have a chance to be the only unranked team to defeat the Cardinals this season and it would be USF’s first win against a ranked team. A win at the KFC Yum! Center would give life to a weak USF resume for the National Invitation Tournament in March.
USF’s last victory over a ranked opponent was against Louisville on Feb. 29, 2012, the year USF made it the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years. In 2013, Louisville went on to win the tournament.
A defeat from the Bulls would significantly hurt the Cardinals’ ranking in the AP Poll and all but end their hopes of finishing the season in the top 10.
USF will look to contain Cardinals’ senior forward Luke Hancock, who has increased his role as a scorer over the past 12 games, averaging 16.2 points per game compared to 7.8 in the first 12 of the season.
Hancock won the MVP award for Louisville last year in the NCAA championship game, and the way he’s played in the past six weeks has shown that his MVP performance wasn’t a fluke.
Louisville has also been benefitting from sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell’s exceptional efforts in the past month, including an impressive 14-point, 10-rebound game against the Bulls.
Since then, Harrell has averaged almost 15 points per game and has been an integral part of the offense, averaging 12 shot attempts a game.
The Cardinals will have a rematch against the No. 7 Bearcats this Saturday and will have to avoid overlooking USF, which is on a three-game losing streak, the most recent loss being by only one-point to UCF in one of the Bulls’ strongest shooting performances of the season, making nearly half their shots.
The game will begin at
7 p.m. in Louisville and will be broadcast on CBSSN.