Preview: Guards Jones, Rozier crucial to UofL's chances against Duke

Preview: Guards Jones, Rozier crucial to UofL's chances against Duke

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Stop us if you've heard this one before, but Louisville's chances in their next game rest on the productivity of guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier.

That's been the case lately, but will be an even more critical factor in Saturday's showdown with big, bad Duke.

The Blue Devils make their first appearance in Louisville since becoming the face of college basketball 30+ years ago. A sold-out crowd is expected at the KFC Yum! Center for the noon tipoff in downtown Louisville.

As recently as a week ago, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was on pace to win his 1,000th game at the hands of the Cardinals. But the Blue Devils have lost their last two games -- by double-digit margins -- to ACC rivals North Carolina State and Miami.

They lost those games in part because they didn't defend the perimeter very well. And that's why Jones and Rozier will need to come up big if the home team plans to send Duke home with its first three-game losing streak in nearly a decade.

[BILLY REED: Coach K won't get 1,000th win here, but he's still 'America's coach']

Montrezl Harrell got all the preseason and early-season hype for Louisville, but so far in ACC play, it's been the Cards' backcourt that has led the way. Jones has averaged 17.5 points in league play, and Rozier, dating back 10 games, is scoring nearly 21 points per outing. He's averaging a pair of three-pointers each game during the stretch, and hasn't scored fewer than 15 points in any of those contests.

Jones can light things up as well, but can also struggle from the field, like when he made only three of 15 shots against Kentucky last month. Since that game, however, he's hitting 50 percent of his shots, and if he's not scoring, he can also be a distributor. He had 22 points and 10 assists in UofL's ACC-opening win at Wake Forest, and on Tuesday, boasted a game-best 11 assists against Virginia Tech. He now leads the league with seven assists per game in ACC play.

Once again this year, Duke has a freshman in Jahlil Okafor who will contend for national Player of the Year honors. The agile center could neutralize Harrell the way Kentucky did -- not necessarily by guarding him but by just being present in the post -- making Jones' and Rozier's contributions even more crucial.

While we're not in the business of making predictions, the formula seems a fairly easy one. With its nine McDonald's All-Americans, Duke is probably the better team on paper so if it has found a cure for its ailing perimeter defense, the Blue Devils should escape with the win.

But the Cards are an active bunch and if Jones and Rozier can convert some of the looks they're sure to get, then Louisville can get the triumph on its home floor.

Inside The Numbers: Duke is sixth in the country in points per game (83.2) and seventh in field-goal percentage (.502). Louisville is ninth in rebounds (40.9 per game) but 181st in the country in field-goal percentage (.435).

Copyright 2015 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.