St. Francis faces long arms of Louisville

Coming off a dominant 84-42 win over Southern Illinois on Tuesday night, the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals will host Saint Francis (Pa.) on Friday at KFC Yum! Center.

The Cardinals (3-0) have a nonconference slate loaded with small-school teams that are expected to contend for their conference titles. Saint Francis (2-2) fits that to a T.

Picked to win the Northeast Conference, the Red Flash is led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Isaiah Blackmon and 6-4 sophomore guard Keith Braxton.

The Cardinals are playing their best basketball of the young season, most notably on defense.

"Defense has been the staple of this program for a long time," Louisville interim coach David Padgett said. "It's great to see, and it's not surprising because our first five have been here, but they're not letting their offense affect their defense. They're continuing to defend and rebound."

Saint Francis may have trouble with Louisville's height in the post. The Cardinals boast 6-foot-10 Ray Spalding and 7-foot Anas Mahmoud in the starting lineup. Louisville leads the nation in blocked shots, swatting 9.7 per game.

Barry Hinson, the coach of Southern Illinois, said Louisville's length and shot-blocking were big factors in his team's 42-point loss Tuesday.

"I think they challenged us a lot," Hinson said. "It made us stagnant and we rushed our shots. I think you've got to give Louisville credit."

Junior forward Deng Adel leads the Cardinals with 19.0 points per game.

For Saint Francis, sophomore center Deivydas Kuzavas, a 6-foot-10 Lithuanian, is a rapidly improving force in the paint. He is averaging 8.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 18.5 minutes per game this season.

The Red Flash warmed up for Louisville by beating Franciscan 96-54 on Tuesday night.

"We were a little sloppy to start the game but I am happy with the way the team responded," coach Rob Krimmel said after the game.

"I challenged the guys at the half and our first unit came out focused to start the second half. We will turn our attention to Friday as we have an opportunity to play a top team in a great atmosphere."

SFU was 24th nationally in 3-point percentage last year (39.1), and they will figure to try to shoot quite a bit from outside against Louisville on Friday night. Louisville's foes are shooting just 26.7 percent from long range.

These teams have very little history, having played just twice since 1960. Louisville beat St. Francis 84-70 on Feb. 19, 1964, at Freedom Hall and 76-63 on Dec. 8, 1984, in the Wendy's Classic in Bowling Green, Ky.

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