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February 15, 2008
Louisville looks to keep surge going against PC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Even Rick Pitino thought he was being a little overambitious a few weeks ago when he said Louisville needed to win eight of its final 10 games to have any sort of momentum heading into the postseason.
"People thought that was probably a little too lofty a goal looking at our schedule," Pitino said.
That was before four straight wins - including decisive victories over Marquette and Georgetown - helped push the Cardinals (19-6, 9-3 Big East) back into the Top 25. Suddenly, the task of winning eight of 10 doesn't seem quite so daunting.
"Now it's four out of six, right?" Pitino said. "Now it's a bit more realistic. But you want to try and win every game, because the one thing with the Big East is you never know where the wins or losses are going to come."
The 23rd-ranked Cardinals, however, don't plan on having one of them come on Saturday when they play at struggling Providence (13-11, 4-8). The Friars have lost six of their last seven and looked listless in the second half of a 19-point loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Pitino, who led the Friars to the Final Four in 1987 and remains a beloved figure on campus, is wary of the "scariest shooting" team in the Big East.
"When they're shooting the basketball, they can beat anybody and that's one of the things that we really got tuned into is how deep they can shoot it and at how many different positions they can shoot it," Pitino said. "This is a very tough game."
If Pitino wants a reminder of just what can happen when a team gets hot, he needs to just pop in a tape of Louisville's 92-82 loss at Seton Hall last month, when the Pirates got white-hot from 3-point range in the second half, many of them coming from well behind the 3-point line.
Providence shoots a respectable 38 percent from 3-point range - second in the Big East behind Notre Dame - and four players have made at least 23 3-pointers on the season.
"They're a much better shooting team than Seton Hall, much better, because they can shoot it with more players on the court," Pitino said.
They'll have to if they want to hang with the Cardinals, whose aggressive zone defense is making good shots hard to come by. The Cardinals are allowing opponents to shoot just 37.6 percent from the floor, the seventh-best field goal defense in the country.
"A big part of our defense is talking to each other," said center David Padgett. "We are moving quick, we are being active and that is allowing us to get out on the break more."
Jeff Xavier and Dwain Williams lead a balanced Providence offense, with five players averaging at least 10 points a game. But the Friars have been unable to overcome the loss of guard Sharaud Curry, who has missed all but one game this season with injuries.
It's a problem the Cardinals know all about, but they weathered injuries to Padgett and Juan Palacios early in the season and are now playing their best basketball of the year.
Perhaps even more important, said Pitino, is the way the Cardinals have smoothed out the edges and played with the kind of consistency they lacked a month ago. Following emotional wins over the Hoyas and the Golden Eagles, Pitino said some teams would have come out flat in their next game. The Cardinals hardly looked it in a dominant 88-68 win over DePaul on Tuesday.
"I think we are maturing a lot," Padgett said. "Coach made a big deal about coming out and not being flat against DePaul. A lot of times teams come out after a big win like we did against Georgetown and they are stale and they end up losing their next game. We really put a big emphasis on coming out strong."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:49 AM to PC basketball
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