Injuries mounting for Louisville

Louisville heads to Pittsburgh for a nationally televised Big East contest Saturday night having lost five of their last seven games. The Cardinals, 2-4 in conference play, will be without top front court reserve Rakeem Buckles, who tore his ACL against Marquette, and could be without starting forward Kyle Kuric for the third game in a row.

Louisville heads to Pittsburgh for a nationally televised Big East contest Saturday night having lost five of their last seven games. The Cardinals, 2-4 in conference play, will be without top front court reserve Rakeem Buckles, who tore his ACL against Marquette, and could be without starting forward Kyle Kuric for the third game in a row.

"Normally, I wouldn't sleep at night under circumstances that we're in right now but I sleep very well because of the character of this team," Rick Pitino said Wednesday night on his coaches show. "We have a great attitude, a great will to win…they will give everything they can and they're very committed to winning. We have to get Kyle Kuric back and I'm not going to sugarcoat that."

Pitino stated recently that the goal for his team is to win all seven of their remaining Big East home games and steal two wins on the road, which should secure an NCAA Tournament bid.

"We try to stay extremely positive and goal oriented," Pitino said. "Although last year was probably the most injuries I've ever had as a basketball coach, this year has topped it. The problem this year is we've been unable to practice. But we've got to try and make the NCAA Tournament, that's what we live and die for."

Pittsburgh, 0-6 in the conference, enters Saturday contest struggling as much as the Cardinals. Pitino hopes Kuric, Louisville's leading scorer, will be ready to go against the Panthers. Pitino said he thought Kuric, who sprained his ankle last week, would play against Marquette and was surprised that he wasn't able to go for Monday's game. Head trainer Fred Hina put the odds of Kuric playing Saturday against Pittsburgh at 50-50 Wednesday night during Pitino's show.


Kyle Kuric might play against Pittsburgh.
"We're hoping that he'll get back to us soon," Pitino said.

The latest injured player is reserve guard Kevin Ware, who suffered a bruised knee against Marquette. Louisville sports information director Kenny Klein told InsideTheVille.com Wednesday that the freshman guard is expected to play against Pittsburgh.

"He didn't play a whole lot against Marquette but he woke up and text messaged Fred that he was up the whole night with great pain in his knee and Fred looked at it and there was swelling," Pitino said. "They did an MRI yesterday, but there's no surgery needed."

Louisville's incomprehensible injury situation - eight players have missed games due to injury - has forced Pitino to alter his full court pressing style of defense this season.

"Early in the season we were pressing almost 40 minutes per game," Pitino said. "The other night we pressed one time. Fullcourt pressure is out the window and we have to protect our guys as much as possible from getting into foul trouble. It curtails multiple defenses and things that we can do. We've got to figure out how to get it done."

Buckles injury could force Pitino to play seldom-used freshmen Angel Nunez and Zach Price. Buckles was a key reserve who backed up starting power forward Chane Behanan and center Gorgui Deing. His absence could open minutes for the 6'8 Nunez at power forward and 6'9 Price at center.

"He is a very worthwhile project," Pitino said of Nunez. "He didn't know how to pass, set a screen or use a screen, but he has enormous potential because he has more passion than anybody on the basketball team and lives in the gym.

"Where he could possibly play right now is at the backup four spot. He can pick and pop, he's a good shooter and he can help us at the four. He's worked real hard and he deserves a few minutes to see what he can do."

Pitino said Price, who he compared to Nazr Muhammad, isn't ready to contribute, but will probably have to play behind Dieng.

"He's way behind. His passing skills, free throw skills, defensive skills are just very young," Pitino said. "I would love to play Gorgui 40 minutes, but if we can't with Rock out, we'll have to use Zach. That's probably not going to get us over the hump to beat teams but he gives us five fouls and he's going to get five fouls in a hurry."


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