NCAA BK

Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 9:00 PM ET
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Temple-Louisville Preview

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Louisville is looking to climb into a first-place tie in the American Athletic Conference after winning a hard-fought game in thrilling fashion over the weekend.

Coach Rick Pitino's team isn't likely to face nearly as tough a challenge against lowly Temple.

The No. 7 Cardinals go for a season-best seventh consecutive victory and two-game sweep of the visiting Owls on Thursday night.

Louisville (23-4, 12-2) is coming off one of its most important results to date, 58-57 at then-No. 7 Cincinnati on Saturday. Sophomore Montrezl Harrell led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Russ Smith scored 10 after making a game-winning 18-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left.

The Cardinals moved one-half game behind the conference-leading Bearcats with four to play. Cincinnati only has three games remaining, and is off until Saturday when it visits Connecticut.

"It was a really big game for us," said Smith, averaging a team-high 17.5 points. "To win a game with us against the world like that, with a team coming together, that's tremendous."

Louisville held Cincinnati to 28.6 percent shooting, the Bearcats' lowest mark in two seasons.

"The thing that bugs me is that if (our guys) miss a shot, they let it bother them," Pitino said. "I tell them that I will never take them out because of missed shots. Defense makes the difference. Play defense, play your butts off on defense, and they did."

Louisville has won each of its six games this month, including all three at home by an average of 30.4 points. Junior Wayne Blackshear says there are many similarities between this year's team and the one that won last year's national championship.

"It's very similar," he said. "We have different people but the same characters on this team. We are all the same way. We get along with each (other) great and only thing now is that we have to keep moving."

The Cardinals have to like their chances of extending their win streak with the Owls (7-19, 2-12) coming to town. Louisville easily won 82-58 at Temple on Feb. 14 behind Harrell's career-high 22 points and 10 boards.

The Owls have dropped 14 of 16 since Jan. 1, including eight straight on the road by an average of 11.0 points. However, they hung tough in Saturday's 82-79 overtime loss at No. 21 Memphis.

"The spirit piece was great," coach Fran Dunphy said. "We're a spirited group and we came into a great environment. ... I was proud of our guys in that sense, but I would have been even more proud if we had found a way to get more points."

Will Cummings scored 24, Quenton DeCosey had 23 and Dalton Pepper added 20, but Temple allowed the Tigers to shoot 57.4 percent.

"Temple has a trio of guards and they play free, and, I mean they played well," Memphis guard Michael Dixon said. "We were just fortunate to stop them when we needed to."

The Owls are 1-7 against Top 25 teams this season. They have dropped 20 straight road meetings against ranked foes dating to February 2001.

Temple will be playing a fifth consecutive ranked opponent for the first time in school history.

Tagged: Cincinnati, Louisville, Temple

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