How Kentucky and Louisville match up

December 27, 2013 

Position-by-position matchups for Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville men's basketball game in Rupp Arena:

POINT GUARD

As often happens with John Calipari-era freshman point guards, Andrew Harrison has struggled early for Kentucky. Over the last six UK games, Harrison has made only 13 of 40 shots and has almost as many turnovers (18) as assists (19). Both Louisville defensive pressure and the Cardinals' offensive quickness figure to test the 6-foot-6 Harrison.

It will be interesting to see if Rick Pitino stays with freshman Terry Rozier (starts in five of last six games) or goes back to junior-college transfer Chris Jones (starts in eight of first nine games). Rozier (5.8 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game; 23 assists to three turnovers) had 10 rebounds against Western Kentucky and 11 points and eight boards against Missouri State. Jones is averaging 13.5 points and scored 20 against North Carolina.

Advantage: Louisville

SHOOTING GUARD

Aaron Harrison has seven straight double-figure scoring games and is averaging 17 points and shooting 51.2 percent from the floor during that stretch. Like his twin brother, the 6-6, 218-pound Harrison figures to be challenged defensively by the smaller, quicker Louisville backcourt.

Before going 4-for-7 from three-point range against Florida International, Russ Smith (16.8 points, five assists per game) had been struggling from behind the arc (4-for-19 in the six prior games). The senior star has been a willing distributor this season, with five or more assists in seven of U of L's 12 games. In three career contests in Rupp Arena (one vs UK; two NCAA tourney games), Smith has averaged 26.7 points per game.

Advantage: Louisville

CENTER

Willie Cauley-Stein (8.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.2 blocks) has had four blocked shots or more in seven of UK's 12 games. Last year against Louisville, the 7-footer had six points, eight rebounds and three blocks but went 0-for-4 from the foul line in a game Kentucky lost by three.

A skinny 6-10, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Australia, Mangok Mathiang (MANG-go like the fruit; MATH-ee-ang) is averaging eight points (on 15-for-21 shooting) and 5.8 rebounds and has blocked 10 shots combined over the past five games. U of L needs Mathiang to stand strong against a bigger, more accomplished UK front line.

Advantage: Kentucky

POWER FORWARD

Rick Pitino is known as a master at coming up with well-designed traps and double teams — Kentucky star Julius Randle (18.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 54.4 percent field goal shooting) figures to see every one of them. With a minus-18 assist/turnover ratio (22 assists to 40 turnovers), it will be interesting to see how the 6-9, 250-pound Dallas product responds.

Montrezl (the 'L' is silent) Harrell has made 23 of 38 shots over Louisville's past five games. The 6-8, 235-pound sophomore was not overly productive (five points, five rebounds) against North Carolina's big front line. The Cardinals need more than that against a Kentucky front line similarly stacked with length.

Advantage: Kentucky

SMALL FORWARD

James Young (13.4 ppg) had a streak of four straight double-figure scoring games snapped by a six-point performance (2-for-5 shooting) against Belmont. In Kentucky's three prior games against ranked teams, the 6-6 Michigan product has averaged 16.3 points but has made only 15 of 37 field goals and nine of 24 three-pointers.

Wayne Blackshear (10.3 ppg) comes into Rupp Arena on an uptick, having scored in double figures in four straight games for the first time in his Louisville career. The burly 6-5, 230-pound junior has averaged seven points and 5.5 rebounds in two prior meetings against UK.

Advantage: Kentucky

BENCH

Kentucky sixth man Alex Poythress has produced back-to-back solid games against North Carolina (six points, eight rebounds) and Belmont (seven points, five rebounds). The Cats got an injection of grit and energy from Bluegrass boys Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins against Belmont. Freshman bigs Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis all look to have promise but haven't had much chance yet to show what they can do.

In Chane Behanan (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Luke Hancock (7.8 ppg), Louisville is bringing two of the key players from its 2013 NCAA championship team off the bench. Hancock, Most Outstanding Player of last season's Final Four, is struggling with his shot (6-for-30 on three-point tries in his last eight games). In his two most recent games against UK, Behanan has averaged 15 points and eight rebounds.

Advantage: Louisville

INTANGIBLES

After he came to Kentucky, John Calipari won UK's first four meetings with Louisville, including beating the Cardinals in the Final Four en route to the 2012 NCAA title. However, last season, Rick Pitino finally beat Cal's Cats head-to-head then led the Cardinals to an NCAA championship, too. A Louisville victory in Rupp Arena would fully signify the upper hand in the rivalry switching to U of L. Neither team enters the game with a marquee victory in 2013-14, so both need victory for potential NCAA seeding ramifications. With UK being the home team and with a young nucleus that has not proven anything yet, attaining the win seems more important for the Cats.

Advantage: Kentucky

Mark Story

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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