Louisville-Houston Preview

The Associated Press

Louisville had no problem handling Houston last month.

While there's little to suggest the rematch will be much different, the 14th-ranked Cardinals won't have their leading scorer from that win, Wayne Blackshear, available for Wednesday night's road game against the stumbling Cougars.

Louisville (18-4, 7-2 American Athletic Conference) made 15 3-pointers - its most in three seasons - while handing Houston its most lopsided defeat in nine campaigns, 91-52 on Jan. 16. While the Cougars got no closer than 29 in the second half, Blackshear had a career-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds in his first game off the bench after 31 consecutive starts.

He returned to the starting lineup Saturday after four games as a reserve and had 10 points with six rebounds in an 87-70 home win over Central Florida. Russ Smith scored 27 as the Cardinals rebounded from a 69-66 loss to AAC-leading Cincinnati on Thursday.

Blackshear, though, suffered a concussion when he was elbowed by teammate Akoy Agau in practice Monday.

Coach Rick Pitino didn't believe the injury was long-term, but Blackshear is not traveling with the team to Houston (11-11, 3-6). The junior swingman is averaging 9.7 points and shooting 61.8 percent in his last five games with 11 3-pointers.

"I think Wayne's going to be fine. I don't think this is a serious concussion," said Pitino, whose team will get seven days off after the trip to Houston. "We're not going to have him travel because that takes a lot out of you. I think he'll be fine in a couple of days."

Even though the Cardinals are 16-0 when Blackshear has more than five points, compared to 2-4 when he doesn't, they are not expected to have trouble getting an eighth straight road win in conference play. While Louisville has won its four road games as an AAC member by an average of 20.8 points, the Cougars have dropped their last four overall by 22.5 per game.

Houston has given up an average of 82.5 points during that skid - 14.4 worse than its first 18 games - and allowed a season high in a 93-70 road loss to sub-.500 Rutgers on Saturday.

Louisville is scoring a conference-high 82.6 per game and shot 51.5 percent in the first meeting, compared to 30.8 by the Cougars.

Houston leading scorer and rebounder TaShawn Thomas had 16 points and 11 rebounds in that game, and he notched his ninth double-double of the season Saturday with 19 and 12, respectively.

Louisville has won nine of 10 in the series but suffered the lone loss in its most recent visit to Houston on Jan. 5, 2005.

The Cougars have won their last two home games against ranked teams, including 75-71 over then-No. 17 Connecticut on Dec. 31, but has since dropped two road games against Top 25 opponents by a combined 62 points. Houston hasn't lost five in a row overall since a seven-game skid to end the 2010-11 season.

Louisville has won 29 in a row over unranked teams.

What to Read Next