Memphis-Louisville Preview

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- - Louisville players might need time to adjust to the comforts of the KFC Yum! Center after 23 days since their last home game.

The 12th-ranked Cardinals (13-2, 2-0) plan to take advantage of the familiar surroundings in Thursday night's American Athletic Conference home opener against No. 24 Memphis (10-3, 1-1).

Louisville has conference wins at Central Florida and Rutgers, while Memphis' three-game winning streak ended with a 69-53 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. The loss also halted Memphis' 27-game win streak against league opponents.

"I told our guys that this is the American, and it is going to be tough. If they play the way we did today, then it is not going to work," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "We have to trust the process out there and play the way that I want them to play. ... We have to do a better job when we travel to Louisville."

The Cardinals lead the series 53-34 and have beaten Memphis four straight times in a rivalry that includes showdowns as members of Conference USA and the Metro and Missouri Valley conferences. They will meet at least twice before Louisville joins the Atlantic Coast Conference this fall.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino doesn't believe Thursday will be the last time his team and fans see Memphis, though.

"I think fans like to see it because it goes back a long way," Pitino said of the long rivalry.

"It's sort of like Georgetown and Syracuse," the coach added referring to the former rivals now playing in the Big East and ACC, respectively. "Even though they're breaking away from their leagues, they're still going to play each other. We're still going to play each other."

Statistically, the teams are very similar with high-scoring offenses. They're close in several categories, with both averaging 39 rebounds, five blocks and 10 steals per game.

Memphis is handing out 16 assists per contest, one more than Louisville. But the Cardinals are beating opponents by a wider margin than the Tigers: Louisville is winning by an average of 22 points per game, compared to 10 for Memphis.

Though Cincinnati beat Memphis by controlling the tempo and slowing down the Tigers, Pitino said his team must defend the Tigers differently as they continue developing their pressure defense.

"We don't have that ability to play like that," Pitino said, "but that doesn't mean we can't execute our game plan."

Pitino notes that Memphis has faced tougher tests earlier in the season. The Tigers have split two games with Oklahoma State and lost 77-75 at Florida.

"Certainly they've been challenged by some very good teams," he said. "We've been challenged, but we've come away with two (losses). They came away with a victory."

Louisville guard Chris Jones, a Memphis native, will be facing a familiar foe in Tigers guard and leading scorer Joe Jackson (15.0 points per game). Jones played for Melrose High School against Jackson, who played for White Station.

It might take Jones a while before entering the game after he injured his ankle in the Cardinals' 83-76 win at Rutgers on Saturday. Pitino said the injury was "very minor" and Jones returned to practice on Tuesday, but the coach said he wasn't sure if the 5-foot-10 junior college transfer will start.

"Generally when you miss practice, you don't start," Pitino said, "as that's our rule of thumb with anybody. And he's missed a couple of practices."

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