Vanderbilt vs Louisville

Time: 09:00 P.M. EST

Louisville has overcome more than its fair share of injuries in opening a second consecutive season in impressive fashion.

Vanderbilt, in contrast, hasn't lived up to expectations with one if its best players sidelined.

Still, the No. 6 Cardinals appear to be getting their toughest test to date Friday night when they host the 20th-ranked Commodores as part of the Big East-SEC Challenge.

Despite dealing with several key injuries, Louisville has outscored opponents by an average of 19.4 points during its 6-0 start. The Cardinals, who opened 8-0 in 2010-11, have never won their first seven games in back-to-back seasons.

Guard Mike Marra is out for the season after tearing an ACL in the team's second game, and forward Stephan Van Treese remains out indefinitely with a knee injury that has kept him sidelined the past three games.

The Cardinals also have been without promising freshman Wayne Blackshear (shoulder) and Rakeem Buckles (knee). Buckles, though, could make his season debut Wednesday against IUPUI.

Reserve guard Elisha Justice was the latest to go down, suffering a broken nose when he was hit by a ball during practice last week.

"Last year was bad, but this year is ridiculous. We don't even talk about injuries," coach Rick Pitino said. "I just tell them I've seen this for 35 years. I'm lying. I've never seen this before. We still pay attention to it and we realize someone has to step up.

"We all would like for the glass to be half full and look for the silver lining, but those questions are not reality."

Peyton Siva, the team's top assist man and third-leading scorer last season, missed two contests with a sprained left ankle and is still rounding back into form. After going 0 for 7 from the floor in his return last Friday, Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals Monday but also committed six turnovers during a 79-66 victory over Long Beach State.

Vanderbilt (5-2) opened the season No. 7 in the country - its highest ranking since 1965 - but has struggled without the services of Festus Ezeli. The senior center, who averaged 13.0 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, is not expected to return until later this month due to sprained knee ligaments suffered prior to the season.

The Commodores, handed a shocking 71-58 defeat by Cleveland State on Nov. 13, are coming off Monday's 82-70 overtime loss to No. 11 Xavier. The absence of the 6-foot-11 Ezeli may have been a big reason why Vanderbilt was outrebounded 54-33.

Coach Kevin Stallings' team led by as many as 10 points in the second half but again was plagued by turnovers, committing 18. That's the Commodores' average in the last four games, and that doesn't include the 21 they had against Cleveland State.

"Turnovers are generally careless or selfish," Stallings said. "Neither of those has anything to do with the other team."

Guard John Jenkins, leading the SEC with 20.2 points per game, scored 20 while making 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Forwards Jeffery Taylor and Lance Goulbourne each had 18.

Vanderbilt, which has dropped four straight against ranked teams, is visiting a Louisville squad which has won 14 in a row at home by an average of 14.1 points.

The Cardinals hold an 8-7 advantage in this all-time series, but the teams haven't met since Louisville's 78-62 win Feb. 6, 1994.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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