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Kent State at Louisville
When and Where: Saturday, Dec. 15, KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Ky., 4 p.m. EST.
Louisville faces an interesting challenge Saturday in Kent State as the mid-major from the Mid-American Conference looks to improve to 4-0 in true road games.
Golden Flashes seek seventh straight victory
Kent State (8-1) has reeled off six straight wins since a 77-70 home loss to Liberty on Nov. 16 and already has victories at Cleveland State, Vanderbilt and Detroit.
The Golden Flashes improved to 3-0 against Horizon League opponents last weekend, defeating Wright State 83-76. Jaylin Walker had 25 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Kent State, combining with Jalen Avery to go 6 for 11 from 3-point range as Rob Senderoff’s team shot 52.6 percent.
Kent State’s Jaylin Walker led the Flashes to its sixth straight victory in an 83-76 win over Wright State. Walker finished with a game-high 23 points, the third time this season he has scored 20+ points. #GoFlashes #MACtion pic.twitter.com/vr89MnjCPN
— #MACtion (@MACSports) December 10, 2018
“I’m really happy with where we are,” Senderoff told the Record-Courier. “If you’d have told me prior to the season we’d be 8-1 right now, I’d have been surprised. These guys have played really hard, competed really hard. I think they’re all willing to sacrifice, and trying to do everything they can do to help us win games. There’s a long way to go, but it’s certainly been a promising start for us for sure.”
Avery is averaging 15.2 points and 4.2 assists while making a team-best 26 3-pointers. He is one of four players in double figures with Antonio Williams (13.7) and C.J. Williamson (11.3). Walker, who served a five-game suspension for violating team rules and has yet to start this season, has averaged 24.5 points while making 18 of 35 (51.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
Kent State is averaging 82.2 points and shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range in its best start since opening the 2002-03 season with 10 victories.
This is just the fifth time Kent State is playing an ACC opponent since the 2004-05 season. The Golden Flashes have the lost the previous three, most recently an 85-76 defeat at Pittsburgh in 2015.
Cards seeking consistency ahead of showdown with Kentucky
Louisville (7-3) is in the second game of a five-game homestand that is highlighted with the annual grudge match against archrival Kentucky on Dec. 29. The Cardinals opened their stay at the Yum! Center by grinding out a 72-68 victory over Lipscomb on Wednesday.
🔟 games down. 7️⃣ wins.
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) December 13, 2018
Jordan Nwora had 22 points and nine rebounds while Malik Williams contributed 10 points and a career-high 13 boards off the bench for the Cardinals, who amassed a plus-14 advantage on the glass and scored 15 second-chance points on their 16 offensive caroms.
“I didn’t coach him a year ago, but I did watch him on film, and he was a freshman, he was playing, and he got pushed around,” first-year coach Chris Mack said about Williams post-game. “He’s not going to be mistaken for Shaq there, but he does have great size, he stays in the play, he has unique timing to block a shot, be able to go after it, seems like his hands are always around the rim.
“We need him to play better offensively, then his minutes will really increase because he’s by far our best interior defender. He did a great job tonight.”
Five of Louisville’s last six games have been decided by five or fewer points. The Cardinals, though, are 6-0 at home and averaging 85.8 points there while winning by 20.6 per contest. Louisville has gotten nearly one-third of its points in those games at the foul line, where it has scored 27.0 points per game in the six wins while shooting 76.4 percent at the charity stripe.
Nwora is the only player in double figures for Louisville at 18.2 points per game and also averages a team-best 7.9 rebounds. There are seven other Cardinals averaging at least 6.3 points, and they are scoring 80.7 points per game overall.
- No trends of note.
- The over is 23-9-2 in its last 34 games following a straight up win.
Kent State is:
- 3-1-1 ATS in its last five games as a road underdog.
- 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games vs. above-.600 teams.
- The over is 4-1-1 in its last six games following a straight up win.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games as a road underdog of 13 or more points.
- The over is 6-2-1 in its last nine games vs. above-.600 teams.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Golden Flashes already have a victory in one of the nation’s tougher venues — Memorial Gym in Nashville over Vanderbilt — and they are not about to just roll over at Louisville. Senderoff has found a good balance in incorporating Walker into Kent State’s rotation, and the Golden Flashes are a good offensive rebounding team.
While Louisville is the best team Kent State will have faced to date, the Golden Flashes have enough to stay within single digits of a Cardinals team still learning its way under Mack.
Prediction: Pick: Kent State +14
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams have well-run offenses, though Louisville does rely more on free throws and crashing the glass than it does strong shooting. Kent State is giving up 71.9 points per game, and the tempo should be fast enough for the teams to rack up enough possessions to help clear the number in this case.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 148 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Though Louisville has led by double digits at halftime in four of its six games, the two best teams it has played at the Yum! Center — Michigan State senior-dominated Lipscomb — played the Cardinals to six and one point through the first 20 minutes.
Additionally, not only is Kent State 3-0 on the road, it has led at halftime by seven or more points in all of them. The entire starting five and Walker are all upperclassmen, and the Golden Flashes should keep this game close, if not lead, after 20 minutes.
Prediction: Pick: Kent State +7.5
Half-Time Total Bet
The Golden Flashes have run their offense in all three road games, scoring at least 39 in each contest and reaching at least 70 points in each contest. Louisville has reached 67 or higher in five of its last six home games, and the tempo should help these teams deliver on the over.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 70 points