Louisville enters the game against USF having won 8 of their last 10 games, including a 57-54 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Scoring has been a problem for the Cardinals, who have scored 51 (Syracuse), 56 (Cincinnati) and 57(Pitt) in three of their past four games.
"It's that time of year where everybody (in conference) knows the other team's offense," Pitino said. "You have to figure out how you can push it up now? We pressed Pittsburgh and did a very good job and got offense off of it."
With two games remaining before the Big East Tournament starts next week in New York, Pitino wants his Cardinals to play at a faster pace. While Pittsburgh slowed the game down Sunday, Pitino says South Florida will run with the Cardinals despite their low scoring ways (The Bulls average just 60 points per contest), including a 46-45 win over Cincinnati on Sunday.
"They are big and a very talented team," Pitino said. "They're very good defensively and play multiple defenses. And their point guard is playing tremendous basketball. He has that little runner that Russ Smith has and he's good at it."
After reviewing film of Louisville's win over Pittsburgh, Pitino was pleasantly surprised by what he saw from his team. Instead of poor play and mistakes, Pitino saw good things from his team despite 38 percent shooting and a 38-25 rebounding deficit.
"We played very well the other night and you would never think that," Pitino said. "I went home dreading watching the film. But I made the team watch it together because I wanted to make a lot of corrections and made very few corrections. We played very well against Pittsburgh. If you watch the film, we moved well and played excellent defense. All around we played very well."
"Now, our guys are holding onto the ball too long, especially Gorgui [Dieng]. I told Gorgui I was really disappointed in him because he didn't block enough shots…there were so many opportunities for him to do things that he didn't do. And he said, 'Coach, I'm exhausted, my legs have given out. He's probably played too many minutes in practice and in games and hit that wall. So I gave him yesterday off completely and I'll probably give him off most of today's practice. He needs a little rest and I think it will do wonders for him."Louisville will need a big game from Dieng, who needs just nine blocks to break Pervis Ellison's single-season record, against South Florida's big frontline, led by 6-10 forward Augustus Gilchrist. Dieng played 37 minutes against Pittsburgh but scored just five points and had only one offensive board.
"I'm real proud of these three guys they exemplify what you want out of student-athletes," Pitino said. "They are all going to graduate and they've never been a problem. They've been a lot of fun to coach."
Kuric came to Louisville as a walk-on from Evansville and has developed into the Cardinals leading scorer this season, averaging 13.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. Pitino wants the 6'4 small forward to take his game to another level in the next few weeks.
"I talked to him today and told him from this point on I want him to do more things on the basketball court - by that I mean I want him playing better defense, trying to get down the floor and dunk the basketball, grabbing offensive rebounds," Pitino said. "I want him doing more things than scoring."
"I didn't think the Kyle Kuric of today was conceivable," Pitino said. "I think playing against T-Will (in practice) and getting his butt kicked was really good for him because he had to improve or T-Will would humiliate him."
Kuric says he agrees with Pitino's assessment that he needs to step up his game.
"It's been a great experience," Kuric said. "Coaches have been great, teammates have been awesome. I couldn't have asked for anything else."
Pitino said that Smith would look to play overseas next season, while Swopshire, who has another year of eligibility remaining, will finish his college career at another school next year.
"We don't have a scholarship (for him)," Pitino said of Swopshire. "It's the same thing with Mike Marra and Stephen Van Treese. I would love to see Jared Swopshire go somewhere and play 32 minutes than stay here and play 10-12 minutes. That's what it boils down to. If he were my son I would tell him to go somewhere else."
Smith, a transfer from Manhattan, thanked Pitino for giving him the chance to play at Louisville. He has started all but two games this season (he started 20 games last season) and has averaged 10.2 points and is second on the team in assists (2.9).
"It will be an emotional night," Smith said. "I would say I'm more of a complete player. I'm improved my defense drastically."
Smith hopes to snap out of his shooting slump on senior night - he was 0 for 4 in Louisville's last two games against Cincinnati and Pitt.
"Right now I feel we're playing great defense and nobody is hurt," Smith said. "I would say the sky is the limit for this basketball team. Any given night I feel we can breakout offensively. If we start pushing the ball a lot of teams are going to have trouble with us."