Anteaters hope to sniff out victory against seasoned Cardinals

Mar 20, 2015 - 3:16 PM Seattle, WA ( - The second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament rolls along with a East Regional bout pitting the 13th-seeded Anteaters of UC Irvine against the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals.

The winner of this bout at Key Arena in Seattle advances to the third round on Sunday to face either 12th-seeded Wyoming or No. 5 seed Northern Iowa.

UC Irvine is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, as the team won the Big West Conference Tournament title by taking down Hawaii last Saturday, 67-58. As a result, the Anteaters improved to 21-12 on the season, stringing together three straight 20-win campaigns, and eight total in their history.

Louisville has logged a 24-8 record this season, its first as a member of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, and while the team didn't win the league's regular-season or tournament titles, it was another solid campaign for coach Rick Pitino's club. The Cardinals won 12 of 18 league bouts, but they enter this game having lost two of their last three, including a 70-60 decision to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament.

Unlike UCI, Louisville has a long, storied history in the NCAA Tournament, this being its 41st appearance. The Cardinals have been in nine straight tourneys, and they have reached the Final Four 10 times. Their overall record in the event is 72-41, and the UofL has won three national championships (1980, 1986, 2013).

This game marks the first-ever meeting between UC Irvine and Louisville in men's basketball.

For the most part, the Anteaters have been solid at both ends of the court this season, netting 67.9 ppg while permitting 62.3 ppg. They are shooting 46.1 percent from the field, knocking down a robust 39.0 percent of their 3- point tries along the way. By contrast, opponents are hitting only 39.3 percent of their total shots. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in Will Davis II (12.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Luke Nelson (10.5 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Mamadou Ndiaye (10.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), although Alex Young (9.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) is close to joining them. UCI holds its own on the glass, coming in with a rebounding margin of +1.5.

Compared to its counterpart, Louisville has the obvious advantage of having the better collection of athletes, as guys like Terry Rozier (17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Montrezl Harrell (15.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg) have done their best to keep the Cardinals moving in the right direction. Wayne Blackshear (10.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is the last of the active double-digit scorers for the club, as no other player is netting more than 3.3 ppg. As a team, Louisville is putting up 69.2 ppg in hitting its field goals at a 42.9 percent clip, which includes just a 30.4 percent effort from 3-point range, but they really shine at the defensive end in giving up only 59.5 ppg, with foes shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent out on the perimeter. The Cards are on the plus-side of the ledger in both rebounds (+3.0) and turnovers (+2.7), but they are converting only 66 percent of their free throws.

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