Louisville hosts West Virginia

Louisville (15-4, 4-2) remained in the Top 25 this week despite an upset road loss to Providence Saturday. Now, the road gets much tougher for the Cardinals, who play West Virginia (15-6, 4-2) Wednesday, before heading to UConn this weekend.

Louisville is right on track with Rick Pitino's Big East plan one third of the way through a grueling conference schedule.

Entering Big East play this month, Pitino divided Louisville's 18-game Big East schedule into six manageable three game segments. The goal: win two of three games in each segment.

That's exactly what the Cardinals did in their first two segments, though an upset loss at Providence last Saturday prevented Pitino's team from ‘sweeping' the second conference segment.

Now, the road gets even tougher for Louisville, starting Wednesday when Bob Huggins brings West Virginia to town for an ESPNU clash. After hosting the Mountaineers, Louisville will hit the road for back to back road games at UConn and Georgetown.

"We start another segment and we're two for two," Pitino said. "It would have been really nice to get a sweep because we have a feeling we're going to have some one out of three's coming up. But we ran into a great half by a terrific basketball player. [Marshon Brooks] made some very difficult shots and we made some really poor plays down the stretch that led to our demise."

No. 23 Louisville (15-4, 4-2) vs.
West Virginia (15-6, 4-2)

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 26; 7:00 p.m.
Where: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Ky. (22,000)
TV: ESPNU will televise the game, with Carter Blackburn (play-by-play) and LaPhonso Ellis (color) calling the action.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) will broadcast the game on radio, with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (color) calling the action.
Next UofL Game: Saturday, Jan. 29 at Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., Noon ET (BIG EAST Network/WHAS-TV)

Storyline: Louisville will try to bounce back from an upset loss to Providence tonight against West Virginia, who will play without leading scorer Casey Mitchell. Louisville and West Virginia have had several entertaining game in recent years, and this game should be no different.
Cardinal Keys: Bob Huggins' teams always are physical and Louisville has to match their toughness, particularly on the backboard. West Virginia ranks third in the Big East in offensive rebounding, so it's key Louisville hits the defensive glass. Without two key players, Louisville also will try to speed the tempo to wear down a team that will has just eight scholarship players available tonight.

Though Louisville led Providence at halftime, the Cardinals couldn't overcome a 2-point performance from leading scorer Preston Knowles, who was in early foul trouble before fouling out. Louisville also struggled with their shooting, hitting just 4 of 23 three's, but it was the 18 turnovers that Pitino attributed mostly to his team's unexpected defeat.

"We had 14 assists in the first half and we were very good on the break," Pitino said. "In the second half we only had three assists and we had our four best shooters go 2 for 19. That said, we didn't lose the game because of an off-shooting night. What lost us the game were 18 turnovers, four on illegal screens."

"We're very thankful for where we are because at the beginning of the year we just hoped to get out with our lives," Pitino said. "But you don't know where the wins are going to come from. More than anything else we've got to take care of home court advantage. That's the one thing we have to do because you don't know where the wins are going to come from on the road."

West Virginia has won five of their last six games, including two victories over ranked opponents (Georgetown, Purdue). But the Mountaineers will play without leading scorer Casey Mitchell, who was suspended indefinitely early this week. Mitchell, a 6-4 guard, led West Virginia to a win over USF this weekend with 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. West Virginia will also be without 6-8 center Dan Jennings, who left the team during the game against the Bulls.

"This is a tough three game stretch," Pitino said. "The following three will also be tough. We should just stay on the bus and not get off.

"West Virginia is playing very good defense. They've got guys that can shoot at all positions and they're very tough inside."

Terrence Jennings, who missed part of the second half against Providence with a hip pointer, is expected to play against WVU. He returned to practice Tuesday.

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