Louisville vs. Florida International: Complete Preview and Predictions

Jon Hancock@@JonKYSportscoSenior Analyst IDecember 18, 2012

March 24, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino (bottom) instructs in front of associate coach Richard Pitino (top) during the second half in the finals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Florida Gators at US Airways Center. The Cardinals defeated the Gators 72-68.  Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewickel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Pitino taught his son Richard everything he knows about the game of basketball, and now the father and son will face off against each other in what should be a very entertaining game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Florida International Panthers in the 11th annual Billy Minardi Classic.

Richard Pitino's Golden Panthers are 3-4 this season in his first year as head coach. They are coming off a 76-73 loss on the road against Florida Gulf Coast.

The young Pitino was an assistant coach under his dad for five years at Louisville, including last year's Final Four run. Richard was one of Louisville's top recruiters and has a strong relationship with several of the players and of course the head coach.

“When the ball goes up, he’ll do everything to beat the University of Louisville and we’ll do everything to beat Florida International,” Rick Pitino told Charlie McCarthy of FoxSportsFlorida.com. “We’re supposed to win the game, so he’s not going to have a lot of pressure.

“But once it’s thrown up," the elder Pitino added, "it won’t be father and son anymore. He’s been taught that way. You go for the kill, and he will.”

Louisville is coming off a very physical win over Memphis, 87-78. The Cardinals continue to be without star center Gorgui Dieng, who is out with a broken wrist.

The Billy Minardi Classic is dedicated to Rick Pitino's brother-in-law and best friend who died in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Minardi worked for a brokerage firm in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

When:  Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 7:00 p.m. ET

Where:  KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

Watch: Big East Network

            WHAS-11 in Louisville, Ky.

Listen: WHAS Radio (840 AM) in Louisville, Ky.

Online: ESPN3

Starting Lineups


C Zach Price, 6'10”, 250 lbs.

PF Chane Behanan, 6'6”, 250 lbs.

F Wayne Blackshear, 6'5”, 230 lbs.

G Russ Smith, 6'0”, 165 lbs.

PG Peyton Siva, 6'0”, 185 lbs.

Florida International

C Joey De La Rosa, 6'11", 260 lbs.

F Tola Akomollafe, 6'6", 210 lbs.

F Tymell Murphy, 6'5", 210 lbs.

G Gaby Belardo, 6'2", 180 lbs.

G Malik Smith, 6'2", 170 lbs.

Injury Report via USA Today

Florida International

- Cameron Bell is academically ineligible for the first semester, and will be eligible to play January 1.


- Mike Marra is out for the season with an ACL tear in his left knee.

- Gorgui Dieng is out indefinitely with a broken wrist.

- Angel Nunez is out with a concussion, he is planning on transferring over Christmas break.

Matchup to Watch: Peyton Siva vs. Malik Smith

Both Siva and Smith are the leaders of their teams, they both control the tempo and are trusted by their coaches to lead the team on the floor.

Smith earned honors last year at Jacksonville College, averaging 15 points and four assists per game as a sophomore. This season he is averaging 16.9 points and 1.3 assists for the Panthers.

Siva does a lot of little things that sometimes go unnoticed on a stat sheet. His ability to find the open shooter and frustrate opponents has kept the Cardinals in several close games over his career. The senior point guard is averaging 11.7 points, 5.8 assists and 2.4 steals a game this season.

I expect Siva to dominate this matchup. Smith may still get some outside shots, but will struggle getting the ball up the floor against Siva's defense.

Game Notes

- Louisville averages 78 points a game, FlU averages 74.3. 

- FIU averages just 31.6 rebounds a game.  

- FIU allows 75 points a game, Louisville allows just 55.6.  

- Louisville has scored 35 percent of its points this season off of turnovers.  

- Louisville senior Peyton Siva is 69 points away from 1,000 career points.  

- Louisville is 1-0 against FIU all-time after beating them in 2010, 92-55.

Game Predictions

This will be an emotional day for Rick Pitino as he honors Billy Minardi and plays against his son, Richard, for the first time. Louisville will still dominate this game, using their athleticism and defense to pressure the Panthers the entire game.

Wayne Blackshear will lead all scorers with 21 points, and he will also get eight rebounds.

Sophomore guard Kevin Ware will be the spark off the bench for Louisville. Ware will score 12 points and have four assists in the game.

Louisville will win 77-58.

All stats used came from ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.


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