Louisville 'starving' for a win at Pittsburgh

Saturday's game is a must win for struggling Louisville (14-5, 2-4) and Pittsburgh.

Saturday's game is a must win for struggling Louisville and Pittsburgh.

Rick Pitino's Cardinals have lost five of the last seven games, while Jamie Dixon's Panthers have dropped seven in a row. If Louisville, 2-4 in the Big East, hopes to turn its season around they must find a way to knock off a wounded opponent in a tough road environment.

"Everybody needs a victory this time of the year in this league with the exception of Syracuse," Pitino said. "Everybody's starving for a victory. Our attitude is very good…I think it's going to help us win games."

Pitino said Louisville's leading scorer, senior Kyle Kuric, is a "game-time" decision. Kuric has missed the Cardinals last two games with an ankle sprain.

"He has not practiced in a while," Pitino said. "Kyle helps our rebounding because we're very small without him and he's always a threat offensively. He's one of the best players on our team so we're definitely better with him than without him."

Pitino also said freshman backup Kevin Ware is doubtful after injuring his knee against Marquette in Monday's road loss.

"He's missed a lot of practice the last two days," Pitino said. "I doubt he'll play, but Bullitt (Elisha Justice) has come alive. (Ware) is okay. He'll probably practice today."

Louisville vs. Pittsburgh
Date: Saturday, Jan. 21 Time: 9:05 p.m.
?Site: Peterson Events Center Pittsburgh, Pa. (12,500)
Television: ESPN Dan Shulman, play-by-play; Dick Vitale, analyst;?Erin Andrews, reporter
Radio:WHAS (840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Doug Ormay, analyst Series History: Tied 5-5?(3-1 in Louisville, 2-1 in Pittsburgh, 0-3 neutral) Officials: Pat Driscoll,?Sean Corbin, Tim Clougherty
Next U of L Game: Jan. 25 vs. Villanova, KFC Yum! Center,?7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Pittsburgh, still looking for their first league win, expects to get starting point guard Trevon Woodall back in the lineup for Saturday's game. Pitino said the junior is a difference maker for Pittsburgh.

"They're playing outstanding basketball the last two games even though they haven't come away with the victory," Pitino said. "Woodall's most likely going to play and they're a whole different team with him at the point guard spot. He's the leader of the team and a terrific point guard."

If Louisville hopes to escape with a key road win, they'll have to keep Pittsburgh off the boards, something most teams haven't been successful doing this season despite the Panthers disappointing results.

"They're +11 (rebounding) and one of the top teams in the country," Pitino said.

Louisville's injury problems have forced Pitino to shuffle his lineup and play freshmen Zach Price and Angel Nunez more. Given Gorgui Dieng's foul issues - Pitino said all five of his fouls against Marquette were bad fouls - Pitino will be forced to the 6'10 Price with Buckles and junior reserve Stephen Van Treese out with knee injury.

"I'm going to have to play him, but nobody on staff thinks he's ready," Pitino said. "He's not a very good passer, free throw shooter and he gets beat quiet a bit on defense. But we have no choice but to try and use him in certain situations. You don't want to play with him at the end of the game."

Nunez, a seldom used forward, will move from small forward to power forward to provide depth behind 6'7 freshman starter Chane Behanan.

"Our long range plans have always been for Angel to play a lot of (power forward)," Pitino said. "Down the road he's a very good four because he's 6'8, long and he shoots it. Some of his weaknesses, once he gains strength, don't come into play at the four spot. He can defender a slower person and he's long enough to give problems to that person."

Pitino sounds hopeful of Nunez' potential.

"He's just had a great attitude all the way through," Pitino said. "He comes up to me in timeouts and asks me what did Kyle do wrong…he wants to know at that moment. So he's preparing himself to play. He understands why he's not playing. He's very willing to learn, he's a sponge absorbing things. I think he's going to be a very good basketball player because of his passion."

Though Pitino had hoped to get freshman Wayne Blackshear in the lineup next week, it's doesn't look like that's going to happen.

"He hasn't practiced yet. It's more than just his shoulders. He has asthma-related things preventing him from getting on the court," said Pitino. "We were expecting him to play against Villanova but he hasn't practiced yet. If he can't come back and make a difference on our basketball team this year let him sit out and have four years of eligibility. If he can make a difference and help us reach the tournament, by all means get him back in there. It doesn't look real strong."

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