With five straight wins, Louisville is buildingmomentum for the challenges ahead – namely its annual rivalry game withKentucky on Dec. 29 and the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play four dayslater. But first, the Cardinals have one more pre-Christmas tune-up on thedocket: Saturday’s home nonconference finale against Grand Canyon.
The Cardinals’ most recent win was one of theirtoughest as they overcame an 8:43 second-half scoring drought to rally pastvisiting Albany 70-68 on Wednesday night. Senior guard Quentin Snider scored 18points to pace Louisville, but it was the Cardinals’ play on the defensive endwhich ultimately proved to be the difference as they swatted away 10 shots –including a career-high-matching nine by senior forward Anas Mahmoud – and limitedthe Great Danes to 36.5-percent shooting from the floor. Louisville rankssecond nationally with 8.6 blocks per game with the 7-foot Mahmoud also rankedsecond with 4.45 swats per outing. “I think when our guys were getting thoseoffensive rebounds, they felt like they were in a forest,” Albany coach WillBrown said afterward. “Just looking up at all those trees, there wasn’t anyplace to shoot the ball.”
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT GRAND CANYON (9-3): The Dan Majerle-coachedAntelopes, the preseason favorites to win the Western Athletic Conference, havewon four of five as they enter a stretch of three road/neutral-site games ineight days to close out nonconference play. Guards Joshua Braun (14.3 pointsper game) and Casey Benson (10.8) are averaging double figures, but defense hasbeen the hallmark for the Antelopes so far. In holding nine of its 12 opponentsto 61 points or fewer, Grand Canyon is tied for fifth nationally in scoringdefense (59.2) while ranking 38th in field-goal percentage defense(39.1) and third in 3-point defense (26.3 percent).
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (9-2): Led by forward Deng Adel’s15.7 points, all five Cardinals starters are averaging at least 8.9 per outing.Snider (12.3) is the only other player averaging double figures, and he alsoleads the team with 42 assists (3.8 per contest) and 19 3-pointers. RaySpalding, a 6-foot-10 forward, is averaging a team-most 9.0 rebounds for theCardinals, who rank 13th nationally in field-goal percentage defense(37.4).
1. The teams have met in each of the last threeseasons, with Louisville romping 111-63 at home in 2015 and winning 79-70 lastseason in Phoenix.
2. The Cardinals have won 62 of their last 64home nonconference games, including an 8-1 mark this season, losing only toSeton Hall 79-77 on Dec. 3.
3. Vernon Keonta, a 6-foot-6 forward, is averaging ateam-best 7.2 rebounds for Grand Canyon, which owns a plus-4 average reboundmargin.
PREDICTION: Louisville 72, Grand Canyon 63