"They're very talented, as good as anybody that has come to the KFC Yum! Center this year," Pitino said. "They have played a good schedule and they're a tough road team. They know how to play on the road because they've got outstanding leadership and we all know Bobby Cremins is a terrific coach."
Charleston is led by 6'7 forward Antwaine Wiggins, who averages 18.1 points, 7 rebounds and shoots nearly fifty percent from the floor. Point guard Andrew Lawrence adds 13.7 points and has 51 assists to only 18 turnovers. 6'8 center Trent Wiedeman chips in 12 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds."They are good off the bounce, they shoot the ball well, they pass it in to the post and cut great off the post," said Pitino. "They've got explosive one on one basketball players. They're a very good offensive team.
"Andrew Lawrence is a tremendous point guard. He's not only a great shooter, but he has a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio. Weideman is going to remind of us Harangody with unorthodox moves. He's a heck of a basketball player."
Wiggins scored the winning points in a 70-68 win over Charleston Southern last weekend, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
"He shoots it and goes inside," Pitino said. "He's got a Lamar Odom-type game. He shoots it a little bit better. He shoots almost 50 percent from the field and takes a lot of three's"
Louisville's schedule is about to heat up, starting tonight against Charleston, who is 9-1 on the season. The Cardinals face Western Kentucky Friday, then play No. 16 Georgetown next Wednesday before traveling to No. 3 Kentucky New Year's Eve. Three of Louisville's next four opponents are a combined 27-3 on the season.
Pitino's squad, though, is getting stronger at the right time. Rakeem Buckles has worked his way back into the lineup and is coming off a 12 point, 6 rebound effort in Louisville eight-point win over Memphis. Freshman Kevin Ware played six minutes against the Tigers and showed promise due to his athleticism and length.
"We'll have him ready for zone and we're sure Charleston will play lots of zone," Pitino said of Ware. "We expect him to get more minutes than the last game. We're just concentrating on getting Kevin used to the system."
Buckles, who returned from a knee injury last week, replaced freshman power forward Chane Behanan in the starting lineup against the Tigers. His return has improved UofL's frontcourt depth.
"It makes it very competitive in practice," said Pitino. "Now that Rak is back Chane has to work up to his potential. Rak's a little better shooter and defensive player. They're both good rebounders. They're both good athletes. Rak's a more experienced ball player. Chane's probably more gifted athletically."
Despite early season injury issues, Louisville has found a way to win this season. Pitino considers his teams resourcefulness a positive sign for the rest of the season.
"We're very lucky right now that we have survived a very difficult stretch with seven, eight players inability to practice," Pitino said. "With all the injuries we've had we could have had three or four losses. So we've weathered a great storm and (we're) getting healthy right now."
One reason Louisville has thrived this season is the development of sophomore center Gorgui Dieng. Dieng has posted three straight double-doubles, including 14 points and 14 rebounds against Memphis. Dieng is third in rebounding in the Big East at 9.5 per contest and also second in blocked shots at 2.7 per game.
"He's still physically a very weak basketball player," Pitino said. "He gets pushed around underneath when the shot goes up. Gorgui will be a much better rebounder when he gains more leg strength because he won't get pushed as easy as he does. That's another 15 pounds away from that happening. But we're very happy with him. He's improved as much as any player that's come here in a very short period of time. He has so much room for growth."
Smith's Receives Big East Award
Russ Smith was named Big East Player of the Week after he helped the Cardinals defeat Memphis 95-87 by scoring a career-high 24 points and making seven steals. It was only his third start in his collegiate career. His scoring total was double his previous career high and his steal total tied for the third best in school history.