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February 20, 2013

Bulls Looking for Upset against #12 Louisville

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The USF Bulls (17-7, 6-5) look to make a final push for the NCAA Tournament beginning with tonight's 7 p.m. matchup against No. 12 Louisville.

USF hits the road currently chasing Villanova and DePaul, both 7-5, in the Big East standings. With five games remaining, the Bulls have the opportunity to move from the middle to near the top of the pack by going up against the Big East's second, third, and fourth ranked teams.

Louisville (21-5, 9-3) is looking to finish the season strong by picking up their eighth win in nine games.

This is the second of two meetings between these teams this season. Louisville took the first match by the score of 78-75.

Three Keys to the Game

  1. Handle the ball well. The Cardinals are 9th in the country in both steals per game (12.5 average) and turnover margin (6.0), so they're able to force turnovers easily without giving away too many of their own. The Bulls must make smart choices and improve on their 16.6 turnovers per game if they hope to come away with the win.
  2. Block shots. Going up against a top 15 scoring offense means that USF's defense must be on point, and blocking shots (an area that the Bulls are ranked 24th in nationally) will be vital to that.
  3. Don't make the game bigger than it is. Yes, a win over the Cardinals would look great for the Bulls' resume. However, losing a game is not the end of the world when each of your opponents from this point on has an RPI of 60 or better. A team looking to make the tournament for only the second time in its history can't afford to psych itself out.
The Matchup

Louisville is No. 12 in the nation and has an RPI of 18, so it's clear that they are a forced to be reckoned with both in the regular season and in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. They've won seven of their last eight games, and three of their five total losses on the season came against ranked teams (No. 9 Kentucky, No. 3 UConn, No. 2 Notre Dame). The Cardinals has an offense that keeps them in any game; however, they are prone to going cold against teams that they have no business losing to.

The Bulls will be playing with more desperation than the Cardinals, as they are certainly not guaranteed a spot in the tourney at this point. With three of their five remaining games coming against ranked teams, this is a huge first step in separating themselves from the pack. USF comes in as the stronger rebounding team (6.2 rebound margin compared to Louisville's 4.8), and an offense that is only averaging 1.7 points less than Louisville's per game. If the Bulls' play reflects where they are statistically, they have a good chance at pulling off the upset tonight.

Players to Watch

As the Bulls enter their final stretch of the season, it is becoming increasingly difficult to single out which player will be the one to watch in any given game. It seems that when a particular player has an outstanding game, another one comes out and steals the spotlight back in the following match. Junior guard Inga Orekhova did just that last Saturday against Seton Hall, scoring a team-leading 22 points and playing more minutes than anyone else on the squad following Alisia Jenkin's exceptional game against St. John's. Orekhova also made the Big East Honor Roll on Monday due to her impressive play, which includes averaging 17.5 points in two matches last week. Akila McDonald and Courtney Williams, who both had double-doubles against Seton Hall, should also be on everyone's radar.

As a collective unit, Louisville is a powerhouse squad. However, the Cardinals don't have a national stand-out player like fellow ranked Big East teams Syracuse and UConn do. A name that will almost certainly come up many times for Louisville throughout this match is Shoni Schimmel, the sophomore guard who is leading the team in most statistical categories and who had a career-high 38 points in the last matchup with USF. Schimmel has been a proven threat at the three-point line throughout her entire career, remaining in the top 50 in three-point field goals per game in each of her three seasons. Though she doesn't put up many points (217th in the nation with 13.8 per game), the Bulls will need to utilize their strong three-point field goal defense to keep Schimmel in check.

The game can be heard on 1010 AM as well as on BullsCast on GoUSFBulls.com



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