Two years removed from a 74-54 loss to Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional, Morehead State is back in the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles get a rematch of that 2009 game when they face U of L in Denver on Thursday in the first round of the Southwest (San Antonio) Regional.
"We played them tough for about 26, 28 minutes, and then their depth and our turnovers hurt us and it ended up being a spread out at the end of the game," Morehead Coach Donnie Tyndall said in recalling the 2009 game at Dayton, Ohio. "But I think our team now is a little more physical, a little stronger. Probably about the same number of players were playing then. They're just older, more experienced and a little bit better.
"We certainly hope to be competitive. We know it's a huge challenge against a very good team. We'll be excited to go see what we can do."
Never miss a local story.
Morehead (24-9), a 13th seed, earned an automatic berth as the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champion. The Eagles gathered Sunday in Johnson Arena to hear their name called on the NCAA Selection Show.
"The fans are great," said senior guard Demonte Harper, MVP of the conference tournament. "It's a great tribute to them for how we've done, especially at home (14-1). That's big-time for us."
The fourth-seeded Cards (25-9) took second to UConn in the Big East tourney.
Before falling to U of L in 2009, Morehead opened the tournament by whipping Alabama State 58-43 at Dayton.
Ty Proffitt, Morehead's junior guard out of South Laurel High, knows that U of L is no Alabama State.
"Louisville's got a great tradition. We're a ways away from being at that tier, especially with Coach (Rick) Pitino, what he's done there over the past years," Proffitt said. But, he added, a win "would be great, and all the guys are going in thinking we're going to win the game. We're not just going to be happy to be there. We want to win as bad as anybody else in this tournament."
Morehead is sure to draw much notice as Kenneth Faried leads the NCAA in rebounds. He was featured on CBS Sports Sunday.
"We're excited about going out there and winning a game more than we are just playing in it," the 6-foot-8 senior said.
Faried calls a key versus Louisville "handling their pressure ... and play as hard as we can for the whole time that we're on the floor, and we'll be fine, I think."
Tyndall said the big matchups extend beyond Faried.
"You look at (U of L's Terrence) Jennings compared to Kenneth, Kenneth is a little more athletic," Tyndall said. "Jennings is bigger and more physical.
"Both teams play a lot of zone. I think the big key will be Demonte Harper versus (Peyton) Siva, Terrence Hill versus (U of L's) Preston Knowles, then Ty Proffitt versus (Kyle) Kuric. And not necessarily from a scoring standpoint, but will our guys take care of the basketball against their pressure? And can we keep those guys from driving the basketball and getting good shots on the rim? We want them to, obviously, take tough, contested shots over us, and all three of those guys can drive the ball a little bit and get to the paint."
Said Harper: "I think it's a winnable game. ... We think our biggest key is taking care of the ball. Twelve turnovers or less and I think we give ourselves a chance to win the game."