Louisville-Clemson preview: Cardinals shoot for bounce back road win

Louisville Cardinals (21-4, 12-2) at Clemson Tigers (12-12, 6-8)

Game Time: 4:05 p.m.

Location: Littlejohn Coliseum: Clemson, S.C.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Jordan Cornette (analyst) and Katie George (reporter)

Favorite: Louisville by 6

Officials: Ted Valentine, Tony Henderson, Mark Schnur

Series: Louisville leads, 7-2

Last Meeting: Louisville won 80-62 on Jan. 25 in Louisville

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Clemson:

Like virtually every team gridlocked in the middle of the ACC standings, Clemson remains a difficult team to figure out. Since losing at Louisville by 18 on Jan. 25, the Tigers have posted a hugely important win over Syracuse, lost three straight to Wake Forest, Virginia and Notre Dame, and then snapped their losing streak with a 20-point road win over Pitt on Wednesday. That win was just the 8th ACC road win by 20 or more points in the history of Clemson basketball.

Though his numbers have dipped a bit in recent weeks, the guy who makes this Clemson team go continues to be big man Aamir Simms. He enters Saturday leading Clemson in scoring (13.3) and rebounding (7.2), and ranking second in assists (2.6). Simms is also the first Clemson player in over two decades to post at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in consecutive games, a feat accomplished in the Tigers’ back-to-back January wins over North Carolina and Duke.

Simms’ supporting cast has been something of a mixed bag all year. Tevin Mack, an Alabama grad transfer who began his college career at Texas, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.3 ppg. A versatile 6’6 scorer, Mack scored 32 point in a 71-70 victory over Syracuse in the game played immediately following the Tigers’ first meeting with Louisville. He has the potential to go off for 25+ on any given night, and he’s coming off a game against Pitt in which he knocked down all three of his three-point attempts.

Brownell has stuck with his four guard starting lineup in recent weeks, hoping that one of John Newman III, Clyde Trapp or Al-Amir Dawes will play above their production level on a given night. Against Louisville the first go-round it was the point guard, Trapp, who stepped up. He finished with a team-high 11 points and three assists. Newman III is the team’s third-leading scorer, but he hasn’t hit double figures since all the way back on Jan. 14. Dawes has been the hotter hand recently, finishing with 18 points and five assists in the win over Pitt.

Another name Louisville fans should have an eye on is freshman reserve Alex Hemenway, who missed most of the middle part of the season with an ankle injury. He’s been rounding into form recently, and has scored a combined 24 points on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc in Clemson’s last two games. Senior guard Curran Scott has seen his minutes dwindle with Hemenway’s emergence, but is still a deep threat whenever he’s in the game.

Simms’ only help down low comes off the bench in the forms of Hunter Tyson and Trey Jemison. Neither had much of an impact on the first meeting with the Cards.

As has been the case more times than not under Brownell, Clemson is a team that has relied on its defense for much of the season. The Tigers rank 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and despite playing at a fairly glacial pace, they’re one of the best teams in the ACC when it comes to forcing live ball turnovers (84th in D-I in steal percentage).

Clemson struggles mightily shooting the ball from both beyond the arc (243rd in the country) and at the free-throw line (280th in the country). I have a sneaking suspicion they won’t struggle from either spot on Saturday. Here’s hoping they used up all their outside mojo on Wednesday, when they lit up Pitt to the tune of 13-for-22 from three.

Notable:

—Louisville’s 12-2 ACC start is its best in its six years as a member of the conference, and its best in any league since the Cardinals won the 1967 Missouri Valley Conference title with a 12-2 record.

—Louisville is 21-4 overall through 25 games for the first tie since 2013-14.

—Clemson is 2-0 in home ACC games against Louisville, and 2-1 in home games against the Cardinals all-time.

—Louisville is No. 8 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (39.1 percent).

—Louisville is 6-1 in ACC road games.

—Clemson’s win over Duke last month made Brad Brownell the all-time winningest coach in program history.

—Chris Mack is 3-0 all-time in games against Clemson, beating the Tigers once during his time at Xavier and twice at Louisville.

—Louisville enters Saturday ranked No. 7 in the NCAA’s NET Rankings. Georgia Tech is No. 83.

—Louisville has made as many as nine three-pointers in a game on 15 occasions this season, including in five of its last six games.

—Clemson has won 24 consecutive games when holding its opponent to fewer than 50 points.

—This is just the third time in the last 24 years Clemson has at least four wins over ACC schools from the state of North Carolina. The Tigers are 4-2 against said schools.

—Louisville enters Saturday’s game ranked 12th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.380), 15th in scoring margin (+11.9), 24th in rebound margin (+6.6) and 36th in scoring defense (63.4).

—Dwayne Sutton needs 12 rebounds to reach the 600-rebound mark for his college career.

—Louisville is 18-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 3-4 when trailing at the break.

—Louisville is 15-1 this season when holding opponents to 68 points or fewer, and 6-3 on the year when teams score more than 68.

—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 153 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 19 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 67, Clemson 62

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Author:

Mike Rutherford

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