Date:Friday, March 20
Time: 7:10 p.m. EST
Site: University of Dayton Arena (13,266) in Dayton, Ohio
Series History:UofL leads 30-11 all-time (23-2 in Louisville, 3-8 at Morehead, 4-1 neutral, 2-0 in NCAA Tournament)
Last Meeting:UofL 79, Morehead State 41 (Nov. 22, 2008 in Louisville, KY)
National Rankings: UL No. 1 AP, ESPN/USA Today, (Mar. 16)
The Cardinals (28-5, 16-2 BIG EAST) opened their 2008-2009 season in the Billy Minardi Classic against the Morehead State Eagles. That regular season ended with a BIG EAST conference and tournament championship.
They will be opening their 35th NCAA Tournament appearance, tied for fifth most all-time, against those same Eagles with the hopes to end this run with a National Championship.
U of L has a 57-35 overall NCAA Tournament record, reaching the Final Four eight times. The Cards have reached the tourney 26 of the last 33 years, including six of the last seven, while Morehead is enjoying its first trip to the Dance since 1984.
Morehead has what, in most circles would be considered a major drought going in their series with the Cardinals. Morehead hasn’t beaten Louisville since the 1956-57 season (12 strait games), most of them by margins that produce a cringe.
That’s FIFTY-TWO (52) years since the Eagles last dealt Louisville a loss. A Morehead win on Friday and Eagle faithful would careless if it’s been 552 years.
Louisville uses relentless defensive pressure to create turnovers and push the tempo of the game into a frenzy. With pesky gnat-like guards and long athletic players (see: Earl Clark and Terrence Williams), they turn each game into a helter-skelter affair.
The Cardinals get most of their offense off the passing of Clark and Williams, two projected first-round NBA draft picks, and down low from freshman C Samuardo Samuels. Clark averages 14.6 points, Williams 12.6 and Samuels 12.1.
Williams, as has been documented all year here on the Pinkie, has a strong case for the best all-around player in college basketball.
Morehead State (20-15, 12-6 OVC) started the season on a six-game losing streak; they also ended the regular season on a four-game “L” streak.
In between those two streaks the Eagles went 16-5 and then following the latter streak, reeled off three strait wins in the OVC Tourney, capped by a double overtime thriller to earn their automatic bid into the Dance.
Their win over Alabama State in the Opening Round of the Tournament was Morehead’s 20th of the season, and their first NCAA Tournament victory in 25 years.
It all starts up front for Morehead State. OVC First-Team and Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Faried is a beast and a double-double machine, averaging 13.5 points and 12.6 rebounds. Fellow OVC First-Teamer, and lone senior, Leon Buchanan leads the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game and is more than a handful on the block.
While Faried gets most of the attention and Buchanan is the leading scorer, the most important player for Morehead State may just be forward Maze Stallworth.
The junior is athletic, crashes the boards well and helps get the Eagles out into transition. Stallworth averages 11.7 points and makes nearly 38% of his 3-point attempts.
Sophomore point guard Demonte Harper adds 10.7 points per game and converts on 35% from downtown. His backcourt mate, junior Brandon Shingles, is quick and will have to help Harper take care of the rock.
Bobby E’s Gamebreaker: MOREHEAD STATE TURNOVERS!
The Eagles had 22 turnovers in their opening round game against Alabama State, and you can be sure the Cardinals will try and top that. Taking care of the basketball has been an issue all year as Morehead State totaled 93 more turnovers than assists, including 120 turnovers from Harper.
In their first meeting Morehead trailed by only six, a minute into the second half before Louisville used a 33-7 run to put the game far out of reach. The Eagles had 17 turnovers against nine assists in that game.
Morehead State alum and coach Donnie Tyndall said following that game: “You know it’s coming and the only thing you can do is you can play without turning the ball over and hope you can make some shots late in the shot clock to take some wind out of their sails. We made a couple of shots late in the shot clock, but we had way too many turnovers.”
The Eagles will have to limit turnovers to have any hope of pulling off the unthinkable.
Faried had this to say about ending up at Morehead: “I’m from northern New Jersey, and to hear about Morehead—that was amazing,” Faried said. “I thought it was a pretty funny name, that they were playing around with me. I didn’t know who they were.”
A win on Friday and the entire wide world of sports will know who they are…
TV:CBS (WLKY-TV, Channel 32 in Louisville) will televise the game.
Radio:WHAS (840 AM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (analyst)
SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Ch. 125
If you are able, make sure you tune your radio dial to WIVY-FM 96.3 and the Eagle Sports Network to hear devout Pinkie reader Matt Andrews call the game alongside Chuck Mraz.