The Louisville Cardinals (22-8, 11-6) defeated St. John's (16-14, 7-10) in
first-round action of the Big East Tournament at the XL Center in Connecticut
earlier Saturday evening. Louisville has now won 9 of their last 10 games.
Before going on this hot stretch Louisville struggled, particularly in January
when the Cards won only three out of the month's eight games. One of those losses was
to Rutgers at the Rutgers Athletic Center, 70-57.
Matee Ajavon scored 23 points in the only meeting between the two teams this year and
despite having won a 10th consecutive contest, Rutgers Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer was vividly upset
following the game. "We should be much better," stated Stringer. "We rush
and we strain. I don't like to just win. We're not executing. We turn the ball
over 20 times. Give me a break. You kidding me? The problem is, soon as I say
something they all get tight."
Rutgers did shoot better than 51% from the field in that game while limiting
the Cards to just 34%, including 21% from downtown. Ajavon's 15 second
half points, however, including 10 straight at one juncture late in the second
stanza, did bail RU out. Despite Kia Vaughn's 9 rebounds, Rutgers was
manhandled on the offensive glass, 20-9. The Cards were only able to
convert those boards into 11 points however.
Louisville finished tied for fifth place in the Big East Conference during
the regular season, alongside Syracuse and Pittsburgh. After tie-breakers,
Louisville wound up with the #7 seed going into the BET. The
Cardinals are 1-2 all-time versus Rutgers, including this season's decision in
Piscataway, NJ. Junior Forward Angel McCoughtry came into the contest
versus St. John's averaging 23.8 points per game and led the Cardinals with 25
points, on 9 for 13 shooting from the field, versus St. John's. McCoughtry is one of the most
prolific scorers in the country.
The Scarlet Knights won their first Big East Tournament Championship last
season and boast an 18-11 record in the tourney over the years. Last season,
like this season, RU was a #2 seed going in and had to defeat Connecticut in the
finals, 55-47. The previous two seasons Rutgers earned a #1 seed, but lost
in the Semis (2006) and Finals (2005).
In RU's favor has been one of the most difficult schedules in the nation (2nd
ranked strength of schedule according to collegerpi.com). While Rutgers
does have 5 losses on the season, all have been to Top-15 teams.
Rutgers comes into the contest versus Louisville averaging 60.5 points per
game while allowing 51.1 ppg. Louisville has a wider average scoring
margin, putting up 76.3 ppg while allowing 63.2 ppg. The Cardinals are
also averaging just a shade under 47% shooting from the field during the regular
season, while RU has held every single opponent this season to under 50%
shooting. Connecticut was the first team, during the last seven games, to
score 60 or more points on RU. Of Rutgers' 29 games this season, RU's
opponents have scored 61 or less in 27 of the contests.
Rutgers has never lost in the first-round of the Big East Tournament (4-0), is 8-4 in quarterfinal games, including 4 straight victories in this round, and
18-11 all-time in the Big East Tournament.
ESPNU will provide television coverage, while WRSU and WCTC will both provide
the radio telecast. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.