Panthers seek upset of fifth-ranked Cardinals

Dec 5, 2014 - 3:29 PM Louisville, KY ( - Coming off a big win on Tuesday night, the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals play host to the FIU Panthers in a non- conference contest at the KFC YUM! Center.

FIU is coming off a win as well, although its 59-38 triumph over Kennesaw State isn't exactly the same as the Cardinals' victory over No. 14 Ohio State. Still, the Panthers are 5-3 overall, although that includes a 1-2 mark in away games. They will have plenty of chances to improve on that success rate, as this contest begins an eight-game road trip.

All six foes that Louisville has faced this season have fallen to the Cardinals and now, the Buckeyes can count themselves among that group. The Cardinals have benefited from a schedule devoid of any true road contests, with their next game being a neutral-site affair against Indiana in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic.

Prospects are not bright for FIU in this one, at least if last season's result is any indication. Louisville rolled to an 85-56 win in the third-ever meeting between the two programs.

FIU hammered Kennesaw State on defense, holding the Owls to just 26.9 percent shooting, including a 4-of-21 effort from 3-point range. The Panthers also forced 15 turnovers, while logging a 44-34 edge on the glass. Dennis Mavin and Daviyon Draper each scored 16 points for the Panthers, who connected on 43.6 percent from the field, although they went just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc.

Any success FIU has had this season has been due to its defensive efforts. The Panthers are letting up only 56.1 points per game on 36.2 percent shooting, ranking among the top 30 teams in the country in each category. They are managing a mere 62.1 points per game on 42.5 percent accuracy themselves. Mavin (16.5 ppg) is easily the best scorer on the roster, while Adrian Diaz (13.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) is a solid producer in the frontcourt. However, Diaz had only five points before fouling out against Kennesaw State.

Louisville led by as many as 19 points and never trailed against Ohio State. The Cardinals only made 35.2 percent of their shots from the floor, but the hit 10 3-pointers and limited the Buckeyes to a 30.4 percent success rate from the field. Of course, an effort above 16-of-28 from the charity stripe would have improved an otherwise impressive win. Wayne Blackshear netted 22 points to lead the way.

Performing at a high level on defense has been a common occurrence for Louisville, and the trend has continued this season. The Cardinals are allowing only 46.6 points per game on 30.3 percent from the floor, ranking third and fourth in the country in each category, respectively. Montrezl Harrell (17.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is a beast for the squad, coming off a 13-point, 10-rebound effort against Ohio State. Terry Rozier (13.6 ppg), Blackshear (11.2 ppg) and Chris Jones (12.2 ppg) are all important contributors as well.

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