Pitino excited after UofL's win over Syracuse

Rick Pitino broke Louisville's 18-game Big East schedule into six manageable three game segments before league play started. Pitino's goal was to win two games in each segment. Through four segments, that's exactly what the Cardinals have done. That has the UofL excited about his team's chances heading down the stretch.

Syracuse shot 51.1 percent from the floor, made one more free throw than Louisville attempted and out-rebounded the Cardinals by three.

So how did Louisville beat the Orange for the seventh straight time?

Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles had it going on from three-point range.

Kuric and Knowles scored a combined 45 points and made 12 of Louisville's 13 three-pointers in the Cardinals 73-69 win Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. Knowles was 7 of 12, while Kuric made 5 of seven three's as Louisville shot 48.1 percent from behind the arch. Those two helped UofL build a 57-37 lead early in the second half that it never relinquished.

Kuric, who is averaging 23.3 points per game over the last three games, has Syracuse's number. Kuric has scored 45 points in his last three halves against the Orange dating back to the final game at Freedom Hall last year. During that period, Kuric has made 18-26 shots, including 9-13 three's. Kuric also had a career-high four assists in Saturday's win.

Knowles, on the other hand, shook off his recent shooting slump with a big performance against the Orange. Knowles, who continues to climb Louisville's single-season (His 71 threes this season are the eighth most in a single season) three-point list, is the third player in Cardinal history to hit three or more three's in five consecutive games.

"Kyle runs that triangle great," Rick Pitino said. "We try to let him work the triangle. He's got a very good floater in the lane. He's a good passer, and then he gets out to the corner. If he gets to the left corner, that's Kyle's corner. We call that on every play, we look for Kyle in that left corner. He's getting better in the right corner. A lot of players don't like shooting the corner shot, he does. But he works that triangle great.

"Then you've got Preston [Knowles]. The good thing is Peyton [Siva] is running the team, and he's not looking to shoot threes. That's the good thing, because he's not a great three-point shooter. When he penetrates and gets the other guys, the other guys can flat out shoot it. But now we're going to get Rak [Rakeem Buckles] back, Gorgui [Dieng] is going to get into shape. We'll have him available next game. We'll be able to work on our motion offense. I'm really, really excited."

Jennings continues strong play

Louisville needed Terrence Jennings to step his play up and the 6-10 center has done exactly that for the Cardinals lately.

Jennings, who is averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during Louisville's last five games, delivered another solid performance against Syracuse, finishing with 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Benched earlier this season for a lack of rebounding, Jennings has averaged eight rebounds in the Cardinals last six games. Against the Orange, the improving junior hit 5 of 9 shots from the floor and made 3 of 3 free throws. He also had a career-high four steals while playing 34 minutes.

Cards in Big East race

Rick Pitino broke Louisville's 18-game Big East schedule into six manageable three game segments before league play started. Pitino's goal was to win two games in each segment. Through four segments, that's exactly what the Cardinals have done.

Louisville is now 8-4 in the league with only six games remaining. Pittsburgh sits atop the league standing with one loss. Notre Dame, with three losses, sits in second place. Louisville and Georgetown are tied for third with four losses. If the Cardinals finish the regular season in the top four they'll receive a double-bye in the Big East tournament.

"I am super excited to be four for four in the segments. Super excited," Pitino said. "I'm real proud of our guys--great team to coach, great group of guys. I'm really, really excited.

"I think in 10 years--I've had a [NCAA] Final Four team, I've had the number one seeds--I think this is the fan's favorite team in the 10 years I've been here. The reason is they don't get down. Down 18, they don't get down. Whatever the points are, they just keep playing hard. Everybody just keeps playing hard. You can see they are not as talented as the number one seed, you can see they're not as good as some of the players in the Final Four teams. But you can see the heart every time they play, whether they're up or down. You saw it at Notre Dame, indicative of the way we play on the road."

Louisville next plays at Cincinnati Wednesday night.

Cards playing for name on front of the jersey

Louisville wasn't expected to be ranked in the Top 20 or near the top of the league standings this year. Expectations were low for the Cardinals, who lost four starters from last year's team, entering the season. But Louisville has surprised a lot of people with their play this season, even though the Cardinals have endured injury setbacks to several key players.

"Ralph [Willard, Director of Basketball Operations for Louisville] kept saying to me, `look it's going to be a tough year on you man. You've got to stay positive,' Pitino said. "I just said ‘look, we're going to get through it.'

"We've had some surprises along the way. Gorgui Dieng was a much better player than we anticipated. You haven't seen it yet, but trust me, he is. We didn't know this attitude would be so phenomenal. Every group of guys you coach today, the number one weakness is ego. Ego is the greatest killer of potential there is today. In every aspect of life, ego kills it. We keep talking about the 12 step program for alcoholics, and I read a great quote, "Ego is edging God out." That's what ego is, and we keep talking about that, keep telling them that.

"When they don't play with an ego, everybody just plays with each other. We have no ego. Truly there's the old cliché of playing for the name on the front of your jersey, and I've never coached a team in my life, maybe two, Providence in '87 and this team, that plays more for the name on the front of their jersey. I think that's why the fans love this team so much. It just shouts out at you that they're playing for Louisville, they don't care about themselves."

Louisville's unselfishness is evidenced in their assist numbers this season. The Cardinals had 20 assists on 26 field goals against the Orange. Peyton Siva led the Cardinals with six assists, while three players had four assists.

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