Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Expect tougher U of L

Cards better since blowout loss to Bearcats

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Even though the University of Cincinnati hammered Louisville by 27 points 5 1/2 weeks ago, there are a few factors that make the Cardinals a threat to make it a better game when the teams meet tonight.

        Louisville is 13-2 at Freedom Hall this season, with its only losses coming to Marquette (75-71) and Saint Louis (67-64).

        A sellout crowd is expected for the game.

        UofL, one of the Bearcats' biggest rivals over the years, has nothing to lose and can only play a spoiler role as UC tries to clinch the Conference USA regular-season championship outright and the No.1 seed in the league tournament.

        The Bearcats are ensured at least a share of their seventh consecutive regular-season title after East Carolina's 51-46 upset of No.9 Marquette on Tuesday night. That leaves UC (13-1) ahead of Marquette and Memphis (both 12-3) with two games to play.

        “I hope the guys can taste it and sense it,” UC senior Steve Logan said. “I've been around a lot. I can taste it. We've just got to go out and finish up strong like it was the beginning of the season.”

        “We better not take anything for granted,” UC assistant coach Dan Peters said. “They're going to be jacked ... And our margin for error sometimes isn't the biggest. We have been good because we have focused in on our opponents and we've played together.”

        No.4-ranked UC has won nine of its last 10 games against Louisville.

        If nothing else, this should be a greater challenge than the Jan.19 meeting at Shoemaker Center just because the Cardinals are better at home.

        They also recently had lost freshman point guard Carlos Hurt for the season with a back injury when the teams first met.

        Pitino said sophomore Bryant Northern, a walk-on, has gotten better at knowing what Pitino wants from his point guards over the last two weeks. Northern has 14 assists and just four turnovers in his last four games.

        Louisville's biggest problem is a lack of size inside. Ellis Myles plays center at 6 feet 8 and is undersized against most opponents. When UC beat Louisville 77-50 last month, the Bearcats won the rebounding battle 42-31. The Cardinals shot 27.4 percent.

        “Almost every game against superior opponents, it's the same thing with us,” Pitino said. “We have a difficult time making shots. Any time you see a team with a high field goal percentage, it's because they have size and have a great interior attack. Some of the best teams work inside to out. We don't have that luxury right now. We'll be a lot better at it next year.”

        UC coach Bob Huggins said Louisville is better just because the players have been in Pitino's system longer. Peters, who scouted Louisville, said it is one of the best-conditioned teams the Bearcats play.

        The Cardinals have to be. They prefer to full-court press the whole game, something they were not able to do in the first game against UC because they did not make a lot of shots. When Louisville does press, UC has to take care of the ball.

        “It's been a fun year in terms of effort,” Pitino said. “It's been a difficult year in terms of trying to score points. We struggle because of a limit of size inside.

        “All the guys are playing their (butts) off. I can't ask for any more from them. They give me everything they can, and I guess that's why it's been a rewarding experience being here, because the players give you 100 pecent each day in practice, 100 percent each game.”

        Pitino talks glowingly about UC's defense and tough-mindedness, how it challenges every shot, does not give opponents good looks at the basket and allows few second shots.

        “I always had a good feel for his program in terms of the way they play,” Pitino said. “I've got great respect for him as a basketball coach competing against him now. I love kids that play hard. I love kids that really want to win badly. That's so noticeable about his teams.

        “Today, in the world of instant gratification, where players are just worried about playing time, it's refreshing to see the Cincinnatis and the Marquettes and how hard they play for their team and for the name on the front of their jerseys. I just really marvel at that. I love the way they play each possession as if it's a line in the sand.”


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Coming up this week
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Kentucky boys schedule
Kentucky boys scores
Kentucky girls schedule
Kentucky girls scores
Ohio boys schedule
Ohio boys scores
Ohio girls scores

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vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


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