Charleston, SC (Sports Network) - The College of Charleston Cougars will once again attempt to knock off a top-25 opponent when they host the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals at TD Arena.
The Cardinals have moved on from their first loss of the season with wins in each of the last two games, including a close 69-66 victory over Illinois State this past weekend. Louisville is now 6-1 overall this season, with the single setback coming against now No. 2 Duke (76-71). This game marks the first true road game for the Cardinals who will return home to face UMKC in its next outing.
Charleston has won three straight games highlighted by its 63-59 victory over then No. 21 Baylor in Waco. At home the Cougars have been less formidable where they have split four contests. Overall Charleston sits at 5-2 with this matchup opening a four-game homestand.
Louisville has won each of the previous two meetings between these programs including a 69-62 victory in last season's tightly contested affair.
In just its second game since losing star center Gorgui Dieng, Louisville struggled against Illinois State but managed to pull out a 69-66 win. The Cardinals nearly let the game get away when Chane Behanan missed a pair of free throws in the final minutes. However Peyton Siva nailed two foul shots with less than 20 seconds left and the Cardinals played well enough on defense down the stretch to escape with the win. Both Siva and Russ Smith carried the team with 20 and 24 points, respectively.
Dieng was lost for 4-6 weeks at the end of November with a broken left wrist, and leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the floor. Dieng's loss also hurts what is normally a strong rebounding team. Smith (19.8 ppg) and Siva (11.7 ppg) will take on added responsibility with Dieng out although both were the top scorers before his loss. Little-used center Zach Price (0.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg) took Dieng's starting job but the real pressure in the frontcourt falls on forwards Chane Behanan (9.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Wayne Blackshear (7.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg).
Charleston narrowly escaped with a 56-54 win over Elon when it last hit the hardwood. Adjehi Baru's dunk with 1:30 remaining broke a 52-52 tie and the Cougars managed to hold on in the final minute to earn the win. Charleston held Elon to 34.5 percent shooting, while netting 46.7 percent of its shots, including a 10-of-19 effort in the second half. Willie Hall was the focal point for Charleston with a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Low scoring affairs have largely been the norm for Charleston this season with the team scoring only 63.0 points per game, despite a respectable 45.5 field goal percentage. Charleston has made up for its meager offensive showings by holding teams to just 60.6 points per game while limiting opponents to 39.3 percent shooting. The Cougars have forced teams to get much of their scoring in one-on-one situations allowing only 7.9 assists per game. Andrew Lawrence (14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.3 apg) is the top scoring option for the Cougars but fills the stat sheet across the board. Lawrence is also an efficient shooter, nailing 50.0 percent of his field goal attempts. Anthony Stitt (10.9 ppg) is also scoring in double figures this season. Baru (7.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg) doesn't score as frequently but has been adept in crashing the glass.