Familiar Foes Battle at Freedom Hall

Marquette and Louisville will lock horns at Freedom Hall this Wednesday night. The Cardinals hold a 33-23 all-time advantage, but the Golden Eagles have won six of the last nine.

Ten months ago, the Louisville Cardinals were on top of the college basketball world. Their 2005 Final Four campaign was just the second such honor held by any Conference USA team, with Marquette making the trip in 2003. Since that time, both Marquette and Louisville have cruised into the Big East Conference but the road has been a lot rockier for the Cards. In their inaugural season, Louisville has been hit with a slew of injuries en route to their current 5-9 conference record. With thoughts of the NCAA tournament quickly fading and with the Cards fighting for their Big East tourney lives, Marquette and Louisville will lock horns at Freedom Hall on Wednesday. The Cardinals hold a 33-23 all-time advantage, but the Golden Eagles have won six of the last nine.

The stakes are pretty high for MU as well. By virtue of Pittsburgh's loss at West Virginia on Monday, the Golden Eagles control their own destiny in determining the first round byes in the Big East Conference Tournament. Simply put, if Marquette can win at Louisville and beat Providence on senior day, the Golden Eagles would earn the four seed in the brackets and a first round bye. While it may be a short term goal, Tom Crean's crew will be taking the same approach they have taken all season. The next game is the team's biggest game of the year.

"Louisville will play with a very blue collar, desperate attitude as I'm sure we will," said Crean, who owns a 7-6 career record against the Cards. "We have seniors that have won in there before and our motivation is go to in there and get better."

Crean has noticed an increased concentration in his club during the past few weeks. With just one week left in the regular season, his Golden Eagles have picked a good time to notch some key Big East wins. Marquette rides a three game winning streak into Freedom Hall, with two of those victories coming against ranked opponents and one of them against Notre Dame on the road.

"We have really locked into each game," remarked Crean. "Our guys have really bought into the short term goals of understanding how to play each team and building confidence in ourselves. Its sounds kind of corny, but we don't want to look at it as, ‘we are playing for this, we are playing for that.' We are playing to continue to improve."

Much like Marquette, the Cardinals will rely on a senior leader and a supporting cast of freshmen. All-Big East candidate Taquan Dean leads the Cards in scoring at 16.3 points per game. The 6-3 senior guard also leads the team in assists, free throw shooting, and is second in rebounding. Freshmen Terrence Williams and Brian Johnson, who is filling in for injured center David Padgett, combine to score eleven points per contest. Veterans Juan Palacios and Brandon Jenkins round out the starting line-up, each scoring over ten points per game.

Marquette will return to the Bradley Center against Providence on March 4th in what will be Seniors Steve Novak, Joe Chapman, and Chris Grimm's final home game. If Marquette can win their next two games, their Big East Quarterfinal game would be on Thursday, March 10th at 2 pm Eastern.

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