January 26, 2013; Washington, DC USA; Georgetown Hoyas forward Nate Lubick (34) blocks the shot of Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith (2) in the second half at Verizon Center. The Hoyas won 53-51. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Must Win Monday For Louisville

January 26, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon reacts against the DePaul Blue Demons during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. The Pittsburgh Panthers won 93-55. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If there is a such thing as a must win game in January, this is it for the Louisville Cardinals (16-4). On Monday, the Pittsburgh Panthers (17-4) will bring their four-game winning streak into the KFC Yum! Center. The Cards have lost three straight.

The match-up between the two teams headed in opposite directions is interesting. Louisville’s last two losses have been to Villanova (13-7) and Georgetown (14-4). Pittsburgh played both on the road and won in impressive fashion. The Panthers destroyed the Hoyas 73-45 and beat the Wildcats 58-43. If performance against common opponents means anything, this is bad news for Louisville.

Pitt is 3-1 on the road and UofL is 9-1 at home. The Panthers are very efficient on the offensive end. They are averaging 17.8 assists per game which is 4th best in the country. Head coach Jamie Dixon’s squad also shoots an outstanding 49.2 percent; 11th best. Louisville ranks 73rd in assists (14.6) and 104th in field-goal percentage (44.7).

Dixon utilizes his bench and has 10 players that average 12.6 minutes or more. No one averages more than 27.9 minutes per game. Talib Zanna is the leading scorer with 11.6 points per outing for the Panthers. If there is a weakness that Louisville can take advantage of, it is to control the glass. Pitt’s top rebounder is 7-footer Steven Adams with 6.3 per game.

Russ Smith has only averaged 10.0 points over the last two, but 18.4 on the season for the Cards. Gorgui Dieng is grabbing 9.8 rebounds and Peyton Siva is dishing 5.9 assists per game. During the three-game losing streak UofL has only averaged 61.0 points, far from their 74.5 season average.

Both Louisville and Pittsburgh are amongst eight teams in the Big East with 3 conference losses. A fourth loss will put one the teams in the bottom half of the standings.

Currently, Vegas odds have the Cardinals as 6.5 points favorites.

Tip-off is at 7:00 pm and can be seen on ESPN for Big Monday. Louisville leads the all-time series 7-5 and have won three-straight against Pitt.

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