Matadors hit road to challenge fourth-ranked Cardinals

Dec 23, 2014 - 4:25 PM Louisville, KY ( - The fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals will begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday that will close out the 2014 calendar year, as they welcome the Cal State Northridge Matadors to the KFC Yum! Center for non-conference action.

Rick Pitino's Cardinals were in a battle with Western Kentucky as the team played short-handed with its star forward being ejected in the first half. However, Louisville showed its resiliency and held off the Hilltoppers in a 76-67 decision. The win kept Louisville unbeaten on the season at 10-0.

Reggie Theus' Matadors have not had the kind of start the team hoped for, as CSUN comes into this contest sporting a rather ugly 3-9 ledger. Northridge seven of its last eight games, including two straight. The lone victory over that span cam against Vanguard (70-58), but the Matadors have dropped two straight since, including a 75-68 setback to Texas A&M-CC on Saturday.

This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.

Stephen Maxwell erupted for 23 points, but it wasn't enough to push CSUN into the win column over the Islanders on Saturday. The Matadors opened strong and led 9-0 through the first six minutes of action. However, the team struggled after the break to contain the Islanders, who netted 52 points over the final 20 minutes of action to earn the win. Stephen Hicks joined Maxwell in double figures, finishing with 14 points in the loss.

The Matadors are posting modest offensive numbers on the season, averaging 66.1 ppg on .421 shooting overall. The shooting percentage is weighed down heavily by an ugly .243 effort from long range, as the 3-pointer is not a weapon in the team's arsenal (just 2.3 made 3-pointers per game). Hicks however, has not been victim to shoddy shooting, as the 6-foot-6 senior is converting a healthy .558 from the floor and tops the team in scoring at 17.5 ppg. Maxwell is next in line at 1.6 ppg and is the team's leading rebounder at 7.6 caroms per contest. The scoring pool dries up fast after that however, as Aaron Parks is third in the scoring column at just 7.6 ppg.

All-America candidate Montrezl Harrell lost his cool in the first half and was ejected for a flagrant foul, leaving the Cardinals in a bind against a dangerous WKU squad. Fortunately for Louisville, Terry Rozier came to the rescue, scoring 26 of his career-high 32 points in the second half to keep Louisville unbeaten on the season. Despite playing just 17 minutes in the first half, Harrell still had a solid outing, netting 14 points and grabbing six rebounds. Chris Jones also finished in double figures with 10 points for Louisville, which shook off a tough first half to shoot .500 from the floor over the final 20 minutes to earn the win.

The Cardinals will be without Harrell and his 16.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for this contest, as he will serve a one-game suspension for his antics against Western Kentucky. Still, there is every reason to believe that Louisville can overcome the loss against the Matadors. With his offensive performance against WKU, Rozier now sits atop the team's scoring chart at 16.8 ppg. Jones (12.6 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) will also be called upon to pick up the slack in Harrell's absence here.

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