The Cardinals, who knocked off Providence 87-60 Wednesday to secure a double-bye in the Big East Tournament, look to finish the regular season with their fifth straight win. Louisville beat Bob Huggins team Jan. 26 55-54, overcoming an 11-point halftime deficit on Peyton Siva's last second layup.
"We have a lot to play for, it's seeding, it's rankings," Pitino said. "We have a lot at stake."
The Mountaineers have won four of their last six, including a win over UConn on Wednesday.
"They play defense like Cincinnati plays defense," Pitino said. "They're a great halfcourt defensive team."
About West Virginia— U of L takes to the road for its final regular season game of the season as the Cardinals visit Morgantown, W.Va. to face West Virginia for the second time this season on Saturday. The Mountaineers (19-10, 10-7) have won four of their last six, including a 65-56 win over Connecticut in Morgantown on Wednesday in their last game as Joe Mazzulla scored 18 points for WVU.
Senior guard Casey Mitchell has produced the biggest scoring increase from last season among BIG EAST Conference players, improving from a 3.7 average as a junior to 14.4 ppg game this season, 13th in the league. Senior guard Joe Mazzulla has the second-best assist-to-turnovers ratio in the BIG EAST (2.62). WVU leads the BIG EAST and is fourth nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense (.284).
Louisville has an 8-3 series advantage over West Virginia and has won five of the last six, including a 55-54 victory in the KFC Yum! Center earlier this season (Jan. 26). The Cardinals fell 74-77 on their last visit to Morgantown a year ago (1/30/10). West Virginia is No. 18 in the Sagarin Ratings and No. 17 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) through March 2.
Series vs. West VirginiaLouisville leads West Virginia 8-3 in the series which dates back to 1959. The Cardinals have won five of the last six meetings.
Louisville overcame a 12-point second-half deficit and an 11-point halftime trailer (37-26) to defeat West Virginia 55-54 on Peyton Siva's driving scoop shot off the glass with 4.5 seconds remaining. A crucial 13-0 second-half run covering 8:20 allowed Louisville to turn an 11-point deficit (42-31) into a two-point cushion. WVU shot 18.2 percent (4-for-22) from the field in the second half, scoring 17 points. Joe Mazzulla led the Mountaineers with 18 points, all in the first half. Chris Smith scored 15 to lead U of L.
U of L and West Virginia met once in the BIG EAST Tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden with Louisville prevailing 82-71 in double overtime (3/8/07). A driving layup by Edgar Sosa as time expired in regulation sent the game into the first overtime period, and Louisville scored the first nine points of the second overtime period to pull away for the victory.
Five years ago in the NCAA Albuquerque Regional championship, Louisville overcame a 20-point deficit and an incredible shooting performance by its opponent to outlast West Virginia 93-85 in overtime (3/26/05) to advance to the Cardinals' eighth Final Four. The combined 29 three-point goals by the two teams (Louisville 11-of-28, West Virginia 18-of-27) was an NCAA Tournament record. Larry O'Bannon, the Most Outstanding Player of the region, scored all 24 of his points in the second half and overtime period. Louisville scored on 19 of its final 25 possessions, tying the game for the first time on its next-to-last possession in regulation. Taquan Dean scored 23 points and hit seven three-point goals, a U of L record for an NCAA Tournament game.
The teams first met in the 1959 NCAA Final Four as West Virginia defeated Louisville 94-79 in the national semifinals played in Louisville's Freedom Hall (3/20/59). Jerry West poured in 38 points to lead the Mountaineers. Don Goldstein led U of L with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Rick Pitino is 7-2 against West Virginia. He has a 6-2 mark vs. WVU while at U of L and his 1991-92 Kentucky team beat the Mountaineers 106-80 (11-20-91). Pitino has a 10-5 record against teams coached by WVU Coach Bob Huggins (1-0 Kentucky vs. Cincinnati; 5-4 Louisville vs. Cincinnati; 4-1 Louisville vs. West Virginia).
Saturday's game will pit two of the nation's top active winningest coaches. West Virginia's Bob Huggins ranks 10th among active coaches in winning percentage, winning 73.3 percent of his games in 29 seasons (689-251 at Walsh, Akron, Cincinnati and West Virginia), while U of L's Rick Pitino has won 73.3 percent of his games in his 25th collegiate season (595-217), 11th best among active coaches.