Pitino concerned; Knowles out against DePaul?

Rick Pitino is concerned about his basketball team heading into Saturday's game against DePaul, who hasn't won a Big East game so far this season. Injuries continue to plague No. 13 Louisville (17-5, 6-3), and the Cardinals could be without senior guard Preston Knowles against the Blue Demons.

Rick Pitino is concerned about his basketball team heading into Saturday's game against DePaul, who hasn't won a Big East game so far this season.

Louisville could be without team captain Preston Knowles, who might sit out tomorrow's game with a hamstring injury.

The Cardinals will also be without starting power forward Rakeem Buckles, who has missed a month's worth of games with a broken finger.

And Pitino won't have Gorgui Dieng, his team's top shot blocker. Dieng is still recovering for a concussion sustained last week against West Virginia.

"We're probably more concerned about this game than any other game this season," Pitino said. "We've been injured and banged up before but nothing like this. Now in addition to Swop, Rock and Gorgui, we add Preston to the lineup.

No. 13 Louisville (17-5, 6-3) vs.
DePaul (6-15, 0-9)

Date: Saturday, Feb. 5; 8:00
Where: KFC Yum! Center/Crum Court, Louisville, Ky. (22,000)
TV: The BIG EAST Network (WHAS, Ch. 11 in Louisville) will televise the game, with John Sanders (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (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, Feb. 9 at Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., Joyce Center, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Storyline: Injuries. More injuries. Not only will Louisville be without Rakeem Buckles and Gorgui Dieng against DePaul, Preston Knowles, the Cardinals leading scorer, also is expected to miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury. Fortunately, the Blue Demons are the worst team in the league and Louisville should be able to keep pace in the Big East standings at home.

Cardinal Keys: Without Knowles, Louisville needs Peyton Siva, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric to step up offensively to replace the senior guards team-leading scoring average. Louisville also needs Terrence Jennings to play like he's played recently and for the Cardinals frontcourt trio to stay out of foul trouble. Defensively, Louisville needs to turn up the heat on freshman point guard Brandon Young and focus on stopping forward Cleveland Melvin.

"So we're very concerned with what we're putting on the floor to compete tomorrow. And although DePaul hasn't won a game they pose a lot of problems. They full court press, and they don't allow you to run certain things. Without our more experienced players it's difficult to go against that pressure. With the team we‘re going to put on the floor tomorrow, we could very easily not come away with the win."

Without Knowles in the lineup, Pitino likely will have to get creative with his backcourt rotation. He thought about playing Peyton Siva and Russ Smith together but scrapped those plans yesterday in practice. Walk-on Tim Henderson could find himself playing a significant role against the Blue Demons.

"I don't feel comfortable playing without Preston," Pitino said. "I thought he would be back for this game, but I think he will be back for Notre Dame."

Pitino also updated Dieng's status. The 6-10 center didn't play in Louisville's last two games against Uconn and Georgetown.

"Gorgui is nowhere near coming back," Pitino said. ‘For some reason our concussions take much longer than concussions other people have. I don't know why. He got hit pretty hard I guess."

If Knowles doesn't play Saturday, he will be the tenth UofL player to miss a game with injury this season. Pitino said his team's injury problems has slowed their growth and development this year.

"The biggest concern that I have is we're not getting better as a basketball team," Pitino said. "We're just trying to keep from falling apart and that's not a good sign. Nobody is practicing, nobody is improving and getting better. It's a really uncomfortable experience. Unless you practice you can‘t get better. Gorgui needs to practice. He's not Allen Iverson. He needs it."

The one constant for Louisville this season has been Peyton Siva. Though Siva struggled against Georgetown, he's been one of the Cardinals key players this season.

"Peyton is a work in progress," Pitino said. "He's continually improving. He's the one player that consistently practices and gets better. I do see great improvement in his game from where he was last year."

Pitino expressed frustration with his team's constant string of injuries Friday. That string of bad luck includes five concussions, one broken finger, one groin injury, one hip pointer, and one broken foot.

"I think certain years things go your way, other years they don't go your way," Pitino said. "I think we've executed very well from a defensive standpoint with every game except the one the other night. We've done some good things. We've shown heart and courage. They play very hard and we're in good shape. That being said you can't keep doing that. Sooner or later, like against Georgetown, you're luck runs out."

"I‘m enjoying coaching the guys, they give me everything they have, but I‘m really having a major problem what we‘re going though," Pitino said. "I don't like it at all. I really enjoy practice and trying to improve facets, and the inability to do that really bothers me."

DePaul has dropped their first nine league games, and are led by a pair of freshmen. Clevelend Melvin earned Big East Rookie of the Week honors last week for the third time this season, and Brandon Young averages 11.7 points per game.

Though Louisville will be without several key players Saturday, Pitino believes his team will operate at full strength shortly. Buckles, said Pitino, will be re-examined next Wednesday to see if he's ready to get back on the court.

"I do think we're very close to getting healthy," Pitino said. "I think by the Syracuse game we could be healthy again."

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