Charlotte, N.C. - Bobcats Arena
9:05 p.m., CBS (Dick Enberg, Jay Bilas)
Season to Date: Louisville enters Saturday's Elite Eight showdown with a 27-8 record. The Cardinals were inconsistent early, losing three of their first eight games, but have come on strong down the stretch winning 12 of their last 14 contests. Rick Pitino's squad posted a 14-4 mark in the Big East this season.
NCAA Tournament Results: The Cardinals continued their dominant Tournament run on Thursday night, running away from No. 2 seed Tennessee, 79-60. The Volunteers were held to 33.9 percent shooting, while allowing their counterparts to connect on 52 percent of their field goal attempts. Louisville handily defeated Boise St. and Oklahoma in opening round action in Birmingham, Ala. last weekend.
Clark's Emergence: Sophomore forward Earl Clark (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) has been a pleasant surprise for Pitino during the NCAA Tournament thus far. The versatile Plainfield, N.J. product posted 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots against Boise State, and then followed that showing up with 14 points and five rebounds versus Oklahoma. Clark saved his best performance for the Sweet Sixteen, however, scoring 17 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. In the last seven games, Clark has averaged a team-leading 14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.
Defensive Presence: The Cardinals have effectively used multiple defenses -- zone variations, man-to-man and full court pressure -- this season, ranking among the top defenses in the nation. Louisville has held 18 of its opponents below 40 percent accuracy from the field, including 12 of its last 19 opponents. The Cardinals have gathered double-digit steals on 14 occasions this season, including seven of their last 14 outings.
Success Against the Best: Louisville is 5-1 against Top 20 teams this season, with the lone loss coming against No. 11 Georgetown on March 8. Included in the victories are Georgetown, Marquette (twice), Notre Dame and Tennessee.
Injury Recovery: Two Cardinals -- seniors David Padgett (11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Juan Palacios (5.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) – recovered from early season injuries to have a positive impact on Louisville's late season success. Padgett returned to action against Cincinnati on Jan. 1, about seven weeks after suffering a broken right kneecap suffered while drawing a charge in the Jackson St. game on Nov. 18. Palacios missed the first nine games of the season with a knee injury suffered on Oct. 13.
Last Meeting: Nate Johnson poured in 31 points and Marques Maybin added 20 as Louisville beat North Carolina 97-80 in Freedom Hall in the last meeting between the two teams on Dec. 23, 1999.
Series History: North Carolina leads the series with Louisville, 7-3, with three of the meetings coming in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels defeated Louisville 97-74 in the 1997 NCAA East Region Championship in Syracuse, N.Y. on March 23rd to advance to the Final Four.
Projected Starters: 33 Andre McGee (5-10, 180, Jr.) – 6.6 ppg, 1.9 apg 34 Jerry Smith (6-1, 200, So.) – 10.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg 1 Terrence Williams (6-6, 210, Jr.) - 11.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.5 apg 3 Juan Palacios (6-8, 250, Sr.) - 6.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg 4 David Padgett (6-11, 245, Sr.) – 11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg Key Reserves: 5 Earl Clark (6-8, 220, So.) – 11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg 32 Derrick Caracter (6-9, 265, So.) – 8.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg 10 Edgar Sosa (6-1, 175, So.) – 7.4 ppg, 1.8 apg 2 Preston Knowles (6-1, 170, Fr.) – 2.4 ppg
David Padgett ... Terrence Williams
Earl Clark ... Andre McGee
Derrick Caracter ... Jerry Smith