Cards look to 'rebound' against Marquette

Can Louisville rebound? That's the biggest question facing Rick Pitino's 18th-ranked team with hot-shooting Marquette set to crash the KFC Yum! Center Saturday morning..

Can Louisville rebound?

That's the biggest question facing Rick Pitino's 18th-ranked team.

The Cardinals are looking to rebound from their third loss of the season – an 88-74 setback at Villanova Wednesday night. What Pitino needs to find is a solution for his team's problems in the rebounding department.

In all three losses this season, Louisville took a pounding on the boards. And despite making 12 of 25 three's and forcing 18 turnovers, the Cardinals were undone by a lack of rebounding against the Wildcats, who owned a sizable 41-25 advantage.

"It's a problem, but every team has an Achilles heel, expect the great ones," Pitino said. "I think it's a matter of liking contact. We don't have frontcourt people that enjoy contact, with the exception of Stephen Van Treese."

No. 18 Louisville (13-3, 2-1) vs.
Marquette (12-5, 3-1)

Date: Saturday, Jan. 15, 11:02 a.m. ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center/Crum Court, Louisville, Ky. (22,000)
TV: ESPN2 will televise the game, with Dave O'Brien (play-by-play) and Bill Raftery (color) calling the action.
Radio: WKRD (790 AM, 101.7 FM) will broadcast the game on radio, with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (color) calling the action.
Next UofL Game: Wednesday, Jan. 19 vs. St. John's, KFC Yum! Center, 7 p.m. (Big East Network/WHAS).

Storyline: Louisville is looking to rebound from their first Big East loss against a hot Marquette team that beat No. 11 Notre Dame 79-57 earlier this week. Rick Pitino compared the Golden Eagles to Villanova, a team that beat the Cardinals 88-74 Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Cardinal Keys: Louisville must rebound, rebound, rebound. In all three losses this season, Louisville was punished on the boards. Even hot three-point shooting and forcing 18 turnovers weren't enough for Louisville to overcome a 41-25 deficit on the board against Villanova. The Cardinals also have to defend better than they did against Villanova against an outstanding shooting Marquette team. It's not a daunting task, but Louisville has their work cut out for them against Buzz Williams' team.

Junior center Terrence Jennings hasn't grabbed more than four rebounds in Louisville's last five games. Freshman center Gorgui Dieng simply lacks the strength, though not the desire, to bang in the Big East right now. And with power forwards Jared Swopshire, the leading returning rebounder from last year's team, and Rakeem Buckles, this season's leading board man, both sidelined with injury, well, there's going to be night's like Wednesday night.

"We continue to work on blocking out, we continue to work on technique of offensive rebounding," Pitino said. "We're doing a lot of things well, but it [rebounding] is a problem for us. With Gorgui it's a matter of strength. His desire is there. He gives you offensive rebounds with his length, but his weak lower body takes away his defensive rebounding."

Pitino didn't offer an updated timeline for Buckles return Friday. He had surgery Dec. 30 to repair a fractured left index finger and was expected to miss four to six weeks. He has missed Louisville's last four games. Before the injury, Buckles averaged 7.5 rebounds per contest.

"Rock will help when we get him back," Pitino said. "He's a good rebounder."

Though senior guard Preston Knowles expressed frustration following Wednesday's loss about Louisville's lack of rebounding, Pitino said he's able to maintain his composure regarding the shortcoming because he knows his players are giving their all on the court.

"The effort is great, the attitude is great," Pitino said. "The turnovers hurt us in the game because it led to breaks for them. Those are the ones that killed us the other night. But we gave it everything we could. [Rebounding] was the difference maker in the game because we shot a high percentage and we caused 18 turnovers.

"I don't get frustrated because they're giving great effort. They're not the most talented group I've coached. They are what they are. Great attitude, great group of guys. They're good, solid ball players, who give you everything they have. There are just no great rebounders on this basketball team. We think we've recruited some."

Louisville, now 13-3, and 2-1 in the Big East, remains on target to accomplish their season goals. Pitino has broken Louisville's tough Big East schedule into six segments and the team goal is to win two of three games in each segment.

"Right now we're just staying with our goals and what we're trying to accomplish," Pitino said. "We've got some very lofty goals out there. We want to win 2 out of 3 in six segments, and this is segment two."

Until Buckles returns, Louisville must rely on Knowles, point guard Peyton Siva, and small forward Chris Smith to carry the team. That trio combined for 55 points, and 11 of Louisville's 12 three-pointers against Villanova. Knowles and Smith also had four rebounds, just one less than Gorgui Dieng's team-high five rebounds.

"I think all three are playing good basketball and having a good year," Pitino said. "Peyton has times where he gets a little bit out of control, but he's only a sophomore. He'll cut down his mistakes every year he's here. Chris has worked very hard to improve his shooting, passing and defense. And Preston is having an outstanding year."

Now, Louisville has to get ready for an early game Saturday against Marquette. The Golden Eagles, 12-5, 3-1, have won five of their last seven games, including a 22-point knockout against No. 11 Notre Dame Monday night.

"Marquette is exactly like Villanova. If they played 10 times, I believe they'd split," said Pitino. "Marquette played Duke to the wire. They're battle tested. We all know how good Notre Dame is and they just blew the doors off Notre Dame. So they're playing good basketball right now."

Marquette is second in the Big East and seventh nationally in field goal percentage, making almost 50 percent of their shots this season. David Johnson-Odom (15.7) is one of five players averaging over eight points per game and has made 31 three's this season.

"They can put five great shooters on the floor at once. They can beat you off the bounce consistently," Pitino said. "Anytime you can beat somebody off the bounce, and shoot it well it's very difficult defending them. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense."

Pitino said that sophomore forward Mike Marra won't play against Marquette because of an ankle injury he sustained Wednesday night against the Wildcats.

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