Louisville-West Virginia Preview

The Associated Press

The last time Louisville visited West Virginia, it had a four-game winning streak in Big East play snapped. This time around, the Cardinals come into Morgantown on a little bit of a better run.

The 24th-ranked Cardinals look to register a sixth consecutive victory Saturday while avoiding a third straight loss in West Virginia.

Louisville (19-5, 7-4) opened this season with 12 wins in a row and was No. 4 in the rankings before conference play started. That good feeling was quickly erased as the Cardinals lost four of their first six Big East games and dropped out of the AP poll Jan. 23, two days after winning 73-62 at Pittsburgh.

That victory started the current five-game win streak, and Louisville jumped back into the rankings Monday. The Cardinals played later that night, cruising to an 80-59 home win over Connecticut.

"We're really playing for ourselves right now," point guard Peyton Siva said. "It's kind of good for us that we dropped down in the rankings like that because I think the rankings really gave a lot of people big heads."

Chris Smith had 16 points, Gorgui Dieng brushed off a sprained right ankle to score 15 and freshman Chane Behanan added 12 rebounds - his third straight game grabbing double-figure boards - to lead Louisville on Monday.

The Cardinals have held opponents to 62.4 points and 37.8 percent shooting during the winning streak, and UConn matched its second-worst shooting performance of the season at 35.1 percent.

"That's about as good of a display that I've seen in quite some time," coach Rick Pitino said. "I'm happy that we're playing great defense. ... I think, for all our guys, this was a very good confidence builder. Going into a very rough stretch of at West Virginia and Syracuse at home, it's good for the guys to see that when you play great defense good things can happen offensively."

Louisville is averaging 75.0 points over its last five games after putting up 67.3 per contest during its poor start to Big East play.

"It's just fun. You get out there, you run, you're just having fun," Siva said. "It really gives you a lot more energy."

Next up for Louisville is a matchup with West Virginia (16-9, 6-6), which has won two of three in the series - both at home. The Mountaineers came away with a 72-70 victory last March 5, as Truck Bryant sank two free throws with 1 second left.

West Virginia, though, may be hard-pressed to post another win over the Cardinals considering the way it has played lately. The Mountaineers lost for the fourth time in five games Wednesday, 55-51 at home to Notre Dame.

Kevin Jones, who leads the Big East with averages of 20.6 points and 11.2 rebounds, was going for his 10th straight game with 20 or more points but finished with 14 while shooting 6 for 15.

Bryant went scoreless for just the sixth time in 127 games at West Virginia.

"K.J. goes 6 for 15 ... Truck doesn't make any," coach Bob Huggins told the Mountaineers' official website. "They played hard; they just didn't play very well."

Jones had season highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds against then-No. 11 Louisville last March.

What to Read Next