Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - The third-ranked Louisville Cardinals continue a four-game homestand to open the 2013-14 season, as they welcome the Cornell Big Red to the KFC Yum! Center for a non-conference matchup.
The defending national champions have picked up right where they left off last year, routing both College of Charleston (70-48) and Hofstra (97-69). The two victories have pushed Louisville's current win streak to 18 games dating back to last season, tying the school record set by the 1979-80 team.
Not many teams have had to endure the kind of start to the season that Cornell has. Bill Courtney's team is playing its second top 10 opponent in the first four games. The Big Red have opened 0-3, with losses to Syracuse (82-60), Loyola-Maryland (93-89 OT) and most recently, Binghamton (89-79).
This is the first time that these two teams have met on the hardwood.
The Big Red had a lead in the second half, but couldn't hold on and fell for the third straight time to start the new season, this time a 10-point loss to Binghamton. Nolan Cressler led Cornell with 19 points, followed closely by Devin Cherry's 17 points, but the Big Red were outscored 27-9 at the free- throw line and allowed Binghamton to hit 14 3-pointers. Dominick Scelfo added 10 points off the bench for Cornell, while David Onuorah just missed a double- double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
The Big Red have been able to score at a high rate this season, averaging 76.0 ppg on .453 shooting, but unfortunately, the success has not carried to the defensive end, where foes are netting 88.0 ppg. Cressler leads three players in double figures for Cornell at a solid 18.7 ppg. Robert Hatter adds 15.7 ppg and leads the team in assists (13). Dwight Tarwater rounds out the top scoring threats with 10.0 ppg.
One of the most explosive playmakers in the country resides on the Louisville roster in the form of senior guard Russ Smith. The All-American candidate has certainly delivered in the early going, averaging 25.5 ppg. Scoring depth for the Cardinals comes in the form of Chris Jones (16.0 ppg), Montrezl Harrell (14.5 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (10.0 ppg). Louisville has dominated at both ends of the court thus far, enjoying a +25.0 scoring margin. The team is averaging 83.5 ppg and allowing just 58.5. The team returned to full strength last time out, as both Final Four MVP Luke Hancock and Chase Behanan were in uniform after missing the season opener.
The Cardinals made light work of Hofstra this week, thanks to a combined 50 points from Smith and Jones. Smith was 12-of-22 from the floor, including 5- of-12 from 3-point range, finishing with a game-high 30 points. Jones added 20 points and doled out a team-high seven assists. Harrell had a strong offensive game as well, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the floor to tally 19 points.