No. 20 Pitt travels to No. 21 Louisville

No. 20 Pitt takes on No. 21 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center Thursday night.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon called Thursday's game at No. 21 Louisville the "graduate transfer championship." While each team does feature contributions from transfers, the Cardinals rely on them a little heavier than Pitt. 

Louisville (13-3, 2-1 ACC) is led by Damion Lee, perhaps the most sought-after transfer after a high-scoring career at Drexel, who averages 16.4 points per game. But since ACC play began, the former Colonial Athletic Association star is scoring 10.3 points per game on 36 percent shooting--well below his 47 percent clip on the season.

Trey Lewis, a Cleveland State transfer, runs the point and averages 13.4 points per game to round out the Cardinals backcourt. In the post, Chinanu Onuaku has helped fill the void left by Montrezl Harrell with 10.1 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game. 

No. 20 Pitt (14-1, 3-0) has received help from additions like starters Sterling Smith and Rafael Maia while Alonzo Nelson-Ododa provides minutes off the bench, but the Panthers are still led by a trio of veterans in Michael Young, Jamel Artis and James Robinson. Young leads Pitt with averages of 17.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while Artis is scoring 16 points per game and Robinson posts 10.5 points and a team-best 5.4 assists per game. 

Artis has stepped up his game since league play began and is averaging 18.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting. Sheldon Jeter, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this season, has also played better of late with averages of 13 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in ACC play.

Perhaps more important than the role of transfers in Thursday's game will be the way Pitt takes care of the ball in the face of Louisville's defense that plays a full-court press for 40 minutes. The Cardinals force 14.7 turnovers per game and lead the conference with a defense allowing 58.8 points a game, the only mark lower than 60 in the ACC. 

Pitt averages 10.7 turnovers per game and leads the conference with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio, with Robinson's 3.58:1 mark serving as the best in NCAA history among players with at least 400 assists. 

Louisville enters Thursday's contest off a 66-62 loss Sunday to a Clemson team that beat No. 9 Duke last night. 

Pitt carries a 10-game winning streak into Thursday's game, its longest since the 2003 season. Meanwhile, Louisville has won six straight meetings against the Panthers and the Cardinals lead the all-time series 10-5. 

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