Teams that couldn’t have started the season more differently will collide on Monday when unbeaten No. 9 Arkansas meets winless Louisville in the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii.
While Arkansas (3-0) has won its three games by an average of nearly 20 points, the winless Cardinals have lost all three home games by a point and are 3-0 for the first time since the 1986-87 season.
“I think it’s really good for us to get away, get together as a team and play somewhere else,” Louisville guard El Ellis said. “Last year we went to the Bahamas and played really well. We got together as a team. I think that could be our turn as well, really good team and we’re going to do it.”
The winner meets the winner of No. 10 Creighton and No. 23 Texas Tech on Tuesday night, with the losers meeting in the consolation round earlier in the day.
Arkansas clinched a 71-56 win over South Dakota State Wednesday in Fayetteville, Ark.
Ricky Council IV posted a game-high 19 points and led four Razorbacks by double digits, including Trevon Brazile, who had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double, Vonste Davis (13 points) and Jordan Walsh (10).
Arkansas kept the Jackrabbits at 32.1 percent shooting from the field, including 3 for 16 (18.8 percent) from beyond the arc, and forcing 20 turnovers.
“Really happy with our defense,” said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman. “I think surprisingly when we do exercises in practice, they do a really good job. I thought this might need to evolve. But the buy-in and attention to practices, really high, maybe as much as any team we’ve had.”
Council averages 18.7 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game, while Brazile averages 14.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Davis and Walsh average 12.7 and 8.7 points per game, respectively.
Meanwhile, Louisville suffered a 61-60 loss to visiting Appalachian State on Tuesday. The Cardinals fought back from a 38-25 halftime deficit to close the gap on Ellis’ knight to one with 24 seconds left before being held scoreless the rest of the way.
Ellis finished the game with 29 points and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield added 12 points and 10 rebounds, but no other Cardinal finished the game in double digits.
Louisville committed 18 turnovers that Appalachian State converted to 20 points.
The Cardinals, also a point behind Bellarmine and Wright State, are led by Ellis, who is averaging a team-high 24.0 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Mike James averages 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds. Jae’Lyn Withers is averaging 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds while Huntley-Hatfield, a transfer from Tennessee, is averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game.
“We all know that after a 3-0 lead we have three points together. I think when we’re 3-0 there’s a lot of different feelings and different questions in that room,” James said on Thursday. “As a team, we know we’re right there.”