November 22, 2017 / 2:12 AM / in 22 days

Preview: Southern Illinois at Louisville

No. 18 Louisville might have an unblemished record, but its play through two games has been anything but perfect. The Cardinals will look to straighten things out Tuesday night as they host Southern Illinois.

Following an uninspiring 72-61 win over George Mason to open the season, Louisville burst out to a 15-point halftime lead against winless Omaha before allowing 53 second-half points and holding on for a nine-point triumph. Deng Adel had 21 points and Ray Spalding added a career-best 19 points and 11 rebounds in a game that left interim head coach David Padgett crestfallen. “We played 20 minutes of pretty darn good basketball, and we played 20 minutes of embarrassing basketball,” Padgett told reporters afterward. “We’ve got to find a way to play with a lead.” Look for the Cardinals to do a better job of that against the Salukis, who are also unbeaten but had little margin for error in a 69-64 win over Division II Illinois-Springfield last time out.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra

ABOUT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (2-0): Four Salukis players average at least 12.5 points per game, led by Armon Fletcher and his 14 ppg. Junior center Kavion Pippen is next in line at 13 ppg and has been the team’s anchor on defense, averaging a team-best 8.5 rebounds while recording three blocks in each of his first two games this season. The team’s top five scorers are all shooting better than 52 percent from the floor, but starting guard Sean Lloyd Jr. isn’t one of them after missing all eight of his field-goal attempts en route to a zero-point showing against Illinois-Springfield.

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2-0): Padgett has plenty to work on moving forward, but he might want to start with ball movement; the Cardinals have just 25 assists on 54 made field goals, with their 12.5 assist-per-game average ranking outside the top 240 in Division I. Adel, who averaged 12.1 points as a sophomore, is at 20.5 ppg through two games on 64-percent shooting after going 7-of-8 from the field against Omaha. Seven-foot Egyptian forward Anas Mahmoud has also been a solid contributor, averaging eight points, 8.3 rebounds and five blocks; he swatted eight shots in just 22 minutes in the win over Omaha.

TIP-INS

1. Louisville blocked 15 shots vs. Omaha, its highest single-game total since 2003.

2. The Cardinals have won their last 20 home games vs. non-conference opponents.

3. Mahmoud has 17 blocked shots over his past five games dating back to last season.

PREDICTION: Louisville 80, Southern Illinois 67

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