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Pre-game preview: Louisville

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published January 17. 2014 11:00PM   Updated January 18. 2014 11:45AM

Here's a pre-game preview of UConn's American Athletic Conference showdown with No. 18 Louisville tonight at Gampel Pavilion:

Tip-off time: 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Records: Louisville 15-3, 4-1; UConn 14-3, 2-2

Last game: Louisville beat Houston, 91-52, Thursday; UConn won at No. 17 Memphis, 83-73, Thursday

Probable starters:

UConn, 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (12.4 pts, 3.6 assists), 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (16.1 pts, 6.2 assists, 6.2 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (13.4 pts, 5.3 rebs), 6-6 grad. forward Lasan Kromah (6.9 pts, 2.5 rebs), 7-foot fr. center Amida Brimah (3.7 pts, 2.6 rebs)

Louisville, 6-0 sr. guard Russ Smith (18.1 pts, 4.9 assists), 6-1 fr. guard Terry Rozier (6.9 pts), 6-6 sr. forward Luke Hancock (10.5 pts, 2.3 rebs), 6-8 so. forward Montrezl Harrell (11.7 pts, 8.2 rebs), 6-10 fr. center Mangok Mathiang (4.2 pts, 4.1 rebs)

Noteworthy:

-- Boatright is expected to play tonight.

He'll play with a heavy heart. He's dealing with the loss of his 20-year-old cousin, Arin Williams, who was shot to death on Monday in Aurora,Ill., Boatright's hometown.

He paid tribute to him by writing his cousin's initials on his left cheek for the Memphis game.

-- The ESPN College GameDay crew will be on hand tonight. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Students were spotted camping out on Friday.

-- Series: Louisville leads 8-6, winning six of last seven including its last two trips to Storrs.

-- The Cardinals have scored at least 90 points seven times, averaging an AAC best 83.4 points.

-- Top reserve: 6-5 junior swingman Wayne Blackshear (9.9 pts), who had career-high 23 pts vs. Houston in his first game off the bench this season.

-- Smith ranks second in the AAC in scoring.

-- Hot: Daniels is 13-for-22 (59 percent) from 3-point land in last five games.

Cold: Napier is shooting 35 percent in last five games. He's been bothered by tendonitis in his left knee.

-- The Cardinals are first in the nation in turnover margin at plus 7, scoring an average of 21.4 points off turnovers. So the Huskies will have to take care of the ball tonight.

-- Stat to watch: UConn is first in the AAC in 3-point field goal percentage (41.4) and Louisville ranks first in 3-point FG defense (30.0).

-- Smith and UConn's Phil Nolan were teammates on the East Coast All-Stars, a summer touring team.

-- UConn has won the battle of the boards in three straight games, the longest streak during coach Kevin Ollie's two seasons as head coach. The Huskies are 8-0 this season when out-rebounding an opponent.

-- Napier has had consecutive games with double figure assists for the first time in his career.

-- Louisville was the overwhelming pick to win the AAC in the coaches' preseason, receiving nine votes. Coach Rick Pitino cast his vote for UConn, which was second.

Here's what he said about his choice at media day last fall:

“I was trying to decide between Memphis and UConn,” Pitino said. “To be quite honest, it was one and one-A. … I had a tough time deciding between them.

“I wanted to vote it as a tie but they told me I couldn’t do it. So I just picked UConn because of more familiarity.”

Pitino went on to explain his choice. He pointed to coach Kevin Ollie as one reason.

“I think they have a great backcourt and a terrific frontcourt,” Pitino said. “They have a coach that is not only a terrific young coach, they have a coach that there is not a living room in the country that he’ll walk into when he leaves that that family won’t want to put him in the top three choices to go to school.

“That’s how impressed I’ve been with Kevin Ollie for the last 10 years.”

During his NBA coaching days with the Boston Celtics, Pitino cut Ollie from the team.

-- Check back later tonight for more updates. Follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe

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