Cards face hot opponent in Pittsburgh

While No. 13 Louisville (24-7) and Pittsburgh, the Cards opponent in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday night, have split the last six games in their series, the Panthers have knocked the Cardinals out of the Big East Tournament each of the past two seasons.

While No. 13 Louisville and Pittsburgh, the Cards opponent in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday night, have split the last six games in their series, the Panthers have knocked the Cardinals out of the Big East Tournament each of the past two seasons.

Pittsburgh advanced to face Louisville tonight with a 70-64 win over Cincinnati Wednesday night in the first round of the Big East Tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden. Sam Young led the Panthers with 21 points and 6 rebounds.

The Cardinals beat the Panthers 75-73 in late February in Pittsburgh. Louisville shot 57 percent from the floor and outrebounded Pittsburgh by seven in that contest. David Padgett led the way with 21 points in the first matchup, while Edgar Sosa added 18. Sam Young and DeJuan Blair each had 20 points for Pittsburgh.


New York native Edgar Sosa hopes to help
Louisville advance in the Big East Tournament
at Madison Square Garden this week.

Since falling to Louisville, Pittsburgh has won four of their last five games and are playing their best basketball of the season.

"We're playing our best basketball right now," said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. "We've won four of our last five. We've got our guys healthy. We've got Levance Fields practicing. We're able to practice and do things we haven't done since December in this last week. So we've put ourselves in a position where we're playing our best basketball here now in March. And that's a good feeling right now. We're coming along."

Despite a 55-52 loss to Georgetown last Saturday, Louisville also is hot entering the Big East Tournament. The Cardinals have won 9 of their last 10 games and, after finishing the regular-season in second place in the conference behind the Hoyas, have high hopes of winning their first Big East Tournament title since joining the league three years ago.

Louisville hasn't fared too well in the Big East Tournament, posting a 1-2 record in two tries. The Cardinals did advance to the Big East semifinals last season but fell to Pittsburgh 65-59. UofL led the Panthers by 11 at halftime last season but Pittsburgh scored the first 20 points of the second half on their way to the finals.

"We're going to come out and play hard," Pittsburgh guard Keith Benjamin said. "The last game was a fight inside of our building. Now we're at a neutral court. We can rebound the ball better than what we did last game. We can play tougher defense than what we did last game. We gave them a couple of easy looks last game.

"So we're going to look to do the same things we did tonight; hold the numbers down, field goal shooting percentage, get better on the boards, look to outrebound the team. Usually when we do those things we get wins. That's what we're going to come out to do tomorrow. Play tough defense. Control the ball, because we know they press, and keep the turnovers down and rebound the basketball, and hope everything swings our way."

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live by ESPN. The winner advances to play in the Big East semifinals Friday night at 9 o'clock.

Big East Tournament Notes

Louisville's 14 Big East regular-season wins ties the school-record for most conference wins in a season.

Rick Pitino's teams have won 26 of their last 31 conference tournament games. Pitino has an overall 33-10 record in conference tournaments. Pitino has won two conference tournaments since taking over at Louisville in 2001; 2003 and 2005 Conference USA Tournament.

Louisville has held 14 of their last 22 opponents to 60 or fewer points. UofL's scoring defense (60.9) is its lowest in 59 years. Louisville has held four Big East teams to 20 or fewer points in a half this season. Louisville has blocked as many as seven shots in nine games this year.

Louisville ranks third in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.381); 18th in scoring margin (+11.2); and 24th in scoring defense (60.9).

Louisville is 4-1 this season vs. Top 20 ranked teams (No. 6 Georgetown; No. 13 Marquette; No. 16 Marquette; No. 17 Notre Dame). The Cardinals schedule is rated the sixth toughest in the nation in RPI.

Five Big East teams are ranked among the nation's Top 25 in the current ESPN/USA Today poll: No. 10 Georgetown; No. 13 Louisville; No. 14 UConn; No. 19 Notre Dame; and No. 20 Marquette. Each of those five schools are in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

Louisville has been struggling lately from the free throw line, hitting a collective 58.9 percent over the last seven games (83-of-141). The Cards shot below 64 percent in all of those contests.

Louisville is 16-22 all-time when playing in Madison Square Garden. Louisville won the 1956 NIT Championship in the Garden.


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