Coogs and Cards continue 20-year rivalry headed in similar directions

Jason Caesar Consolacion

Staff Writer

The Louisville Cardinals make a return to Hofheinz Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. today, but they are hardly the same Cardinal team that defeated Houston twice last season.

The Cardinals' 9-15 record (3-7 Conference USA) is far behind last season's 26-9 overall finish.

Denny Crum, in his 27th year as Louisville's head coach, faces his first losing season since 1991, when the team finished 14-16 overall.

UL averages 67.2 points per game, but allows 67.4 points and allows teams to shoot 42 percent.

Louisville has lost nine of its last 10 games, including a recent five-game losing streak before whipping Tulane (1-10, C-USA) last Saturday 81-62.

Sophomore Nate Johnson recorded a double-double for the Cardinals with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Tulane win. Senior Damion Dantzler led the team with 13 boards and also scored 10 points.

Freshman standout Marques Maybin leads the team in scoring averaging 11.6.

Maybin has scored 20 points or more in two of Louisville's last three games.

"It's always fun to play at Hofheinz (Pavilion)," Crum said. "Right now, both teams are similar statistically, and we're both struggling a bit ... I look forward to playing (tonight). Houston is a great rival."

In 1983, the Cardinals faced the Cougars in the NCAA tournament, a game that was ranked as the highest rated non-championship college basketball telecast ever.

In keeping with the great Houston-Louisville rivalry that dates back to UL's "Doctors of Dunk" and UH's "Phi Slama Jama" of the early 1980s, the Cougars hope to get back on the winning track after losing three in a row.

Houston has improved in just about every statistical category since starting C-USA play except one: winning.

Houston lost to Southern Mississippi on Saturday 72-67, despite recording its second highest assist total (13) of the season and committing only 15 turnovers, the lowest count in two months.

The team still can't find the winning touch that led them to an early 7-0 record.

In the loss, senior guard Shamahn McBride led the team with 16 points, six assists and three rebounds.

Forward Galen Robinson scored 15 points and grabbed four boards while freshman Chad Hendrick had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Like Louisville, Houston is far from the glory days of the early '80s and early '90s, but these two teams have a proud history and are likely to be motivated because of the rivalry.

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