LAS VEGAS A 4-0 record, a team scoring 90-plus points a game and a 31-point margin of victory BYU would love to continue its torrid start and gaudy results, but the Cougars know the level of competition takes a steep spike as they face No. 6 Louisville tonight.
Tip-off between the Cougars (4-0) and the Cardinals (3-0) is set for 7 p.m. MST, one of four third-round games in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Invitational to be played at the Orleans Arena. Following is a matchup between top-ranked North Carolina (3-0) and Old Dominion (3-1), with the losers and winners pairing off in Saturday's final round.
Both the Cougars and Cardinals already have easily dispatched the likes of Jackson State and Hartford in previous tourney contests played on home courts in Provo and Louisville BYU beating JSU 100-61 and Hartford 97-63 and Louisville downing the two 84-53 and 104-69.
The Cardinals squeezed in a Wednesday night victory at UNLV, beating the Rebels 68-48.
To a man, the Cougars are anxious to see where their game stacks up against one of the nation's best this season and storied perennial powerhouse program in its seventh season under head coach Rick Pitino.
"It will be a good gauge on where we are at this point," said Cougar guard Sam Burgess, one of five BYU players averaging in double figures, led by center Trent Plaisted's 16.5.
Guard Lee Cummard agreed: "We'll see where we stand, and hopefully it will be a good game."
BYU coach Dave Rose has liked what he has seen so far.
"The most important thing at this point of the year is that your team is playing together," said Rose, adding that sometimes teams start off with players trying to do their own thing and fight the coach a bit. "These guys don't have that problem. ... I'm pleased how our team is playing together and sharing the ball."
BYU has scored 74, 90, 100 and 97 points in its first four games against Long Beach State, Idaho State, Jackson State and Hartford, with winning margins of 40, 21, 39 and 24 points in the four, respectively. But obviously, those four are a far cry from the caliber of the Cardinals.
Louisville comes into the contest minus its two post standouts Juan Palacios, the only substantial holdover from the Cardinals' 2005 Final Four squad, is out until at least mid-December with a torn knee ligament, while David Padgett suffered a broken kneecap last weekend and may be lost for the season.
Earl Clark leads UofL, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds a game.The two teams haven't met since BYU's 75-60 victory in the second round of the 1994 Great Alaska Shootout. Louisville leads the overall series 2-1, with its most recent win over the Cougars coming in the 1988 NCAA Tournament.
GAME NOTES: This is the third round of the eight-team Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Invitational, dividing into two four-team subsets. Four smaller programs played two games each at a pair of the larger schools for example, BYU and Louisville both recently hosted and defeated Jackson State and Hartford. BYU faces Louisville, and North Carolina takes on Old Dominion in the featured name-school doubleheader tonight, then the losers meet at 5:30 p.m. MST Saturday and the winners later at 8:30 p.m. MST. If BYU advances to the late winners game Saturday, that game will be broadcast on ESPN2; if BYU is relegated to Saturday's losers game, the Cougars will be broadcast on BYUTV.
Cougars on the air
BYU (4-0) vs. Louisville (3-0)
Tonight, 7 p.m. MT
E-mail: [email protected]
Contributing: Dick Harmon