A trouble spot for both clubs, and not a good one to have. Louisville has plenty of point guards but none that has effectively played the point, as of yet. Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee and now Jerry Smith have all taken revolving-door shots at the starting job. Sosa is the enigma. The New York City junior is talented but erratic, has started just four games and is averaging just 18.3 minutes. He admitted Wednesday night his current run of floor foibles has made this the most difficult stretch of his college career. Meanwhile, UK could be close to letting young colt DeAndre Liggins run free. The freshman made his first start on Monday. He leads the Cats with 53 assists but has the tendency to take, and brick, the three. He's shooting only 18.5 percent from behind the arc. When not playing off-guard, Michael Porter has improved at the point. The junior was enjoying a four-game stretch of 21 assists against just five turnovers until fumbling it away four times against Central Michigan on Monday.
Junior-college transfer Kevin Galloway could have whiplash as many times as he's been jerked in and out of the lineup. Galloway has played just seven minutes the past two games.
If Liggins and Porter start in the same backcourt, Porter slides over to the two-guard. Though the Californian came to UK as a shooter, he's had difficulty making shots this season. He's made but eight of his 32 three-point attempts. He needs to heat up. The crowd-pleasing Landon Slone has been an electric jolt off the bench. The walk-on and former Paintsville star has played 29 floor-diving minutes the past two games. Former Clark County star Preston Knowles has ascended to starting status for the Cards the past two games, with usual shooting guard Jerry Smith taking a stab at the point. Knowles is shooting 47.2 percent from threes and scored a career-high 21 points in Louisville's win over Austin Peay. His real strength is his defense, and look for Knowles and McGee to try to harass the turnover-prone Cats into errors off the full-court press.
Aside from possibly the post, this is the most intriguing matchup in the game. Terrence Williams is Mr. Do-Everything for the Cards. Problem is, Williams doesn't do everything all that well. He's averaging 11.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and leads the team with 55 assists. But he's often a runaway train off the tracks, a below-average three-point shooter (29.8 percent) and a nightmare at the foul line (56.5 percent). He made just two of 15 shots in the Cards' loss to UNLV on New Year's Eve. UK's Jodie Meeks lacks the play-making ability of a Williams, but he can sure put the ball in the basket. The junior is averaging a stellar 24.1 points, is shooting 43.2 percent from behind the arc, and threw in 46 points two weeks ago when UK beat Appalachian State at — yes — Freedom Hall. Talented backup Darius Miller needs to fight his way out of his freshman fog.
Louisville should have the clear advantage here if Earl Clark is on his rather considerable game. The junior is averaging 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. He can score inside and out, as he proved against Mississippi, tallying 25 points and 16 rebounds. But a mediocre effort in the Cards' loss to Minnesota earned Pitino's ire and pine time for the New Jersey native as freshman Jared Swopshire picked up the start. Still, E.C. will be a handful for Perry Stevenson, whose pencil-thin frame has the tendency to be pushed around. The Louisianan is averaging 6.9 points and 6.2 rebounds, and managed to play 23 minutes without scoring a point on Monday. Backup Josh Harrellson appears to have shaken the daze of final exams. Over the past two games, the junior-college transfer has scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 30 minutes on the floor. But Clark's quickness could tie Harrellson in knots.
There is only a year's difference between UK's Patrick Patterson and U of L's Samardo Samuels, but sometimes a year can make all the difference. The accomplished Patterson is averaging 19.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. He has been ridiculously accurate around the basket, making 33 of 40 shots his past three outings. The only time P-Pat has let UK down this year was when he shaved off his Afro. At 6-foot-8, Samuels is only slightly shorter than the 6-9 Patterson, but right now Samuels is encountering a world of problems trying to finish against the taller players he has encountered on the college level. He's not a particularly explosive leaper, and Mississippi harassed the freshman from Jamaica into a 2-for-13 shooting night. Samuels made just two of six shots in the UNLV loss. He's not a David Padgett when it comes to passing out of the post, either, but he is a rookie with a formidable body and grindstone skills. Pitino says his star signee must "learn to play above the rim." The education continues Sunday.