CARDS TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS
University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has said it on several occasions and as of Friday it's still the case – the team will have Christmas off.
Pitino said it's the first time during his career that he's given his team the holidays off. Many of the players will head home for the two days off, while some can't make it home and back but will celebrate in Louisville.
Senior point guard Peyton Siva said "I guess there are Christmas miracles," when asked about Pitino giving the team time off.
But Pitino said this team is "a veteran ball club," and also noted the schedule has allowed him to be able to give his team some time off.
"We have never been able to do that in the past from a scheduling or a fundamental standpoint, we had to work," Pitino said. "I think the healthiest thing right now if they're successful against Western is to give them some mental time."
The Cardinals traveled to Nashville on Friday evening and will play Western Kentucky on Saturday night. U of L is off until Dec. 29 when the Cardinals host Kentucky in the latest version of the Dream Game in the KFC Yum! Center.
PITINO SAYS TEAM IS FOCUSED
Pitino said his team still needs to get better on the defensive end of the floor and pointed out Western Kentucky "always plays us tough, it's a rivalry."
The veteran coach also noted the Cardinals are not looking past WKU just because the UK game is the next one on the schedule. U of L will then open Big East Conference play on Jan. 2 against Providence.
"We are not preparing for Kentucky," he said. "We wouldn't worry about Providence when we are preparing for Kentucky.
"it just doesn't work that way."
ONE SMALL WEAKNESS
Pitino was asked what he felt like was one thing his team really needed to work on and he responded by saying, "it's a small thing."
But he then said a "major weakness" of this team was "little fundamental things," that were killing the team's transition offense and defense.
"Small things mean a lot," he said. "If we don't get an offensive rebound, we're reaching in. It's a small fundamental thing, but it really hurts our transition defense.
"But I am pleased because the parts (to the team) are improving. They are all catching up to Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) and that's a big thing for us."
ANOTHER GORGUI UPDATE
Junior center Gorgui Dieng will have a doctors appointment next Wednesday to see if he will be cleared to play against Kentucky.
Dieng suffered a broken left wrist last month against Missouri and has been working out and doing individual instructions.
"He is in shape," Pitino said. "He's in better shape than some of the other guys. He's been running – basketball running one hour a day.
"He's in great shape right now."
BLACKSHEAR STILL IMPROVING
Sophomore Wayne Blackshear has been one of the most improved players on the team during recent games.
Pitino said he's "getting back," to the type of player he was coming out of high school. He had surgery on both shoulders from the end of his high school career until he stepped onto the floor for U of L late last season.
"I'm feeling more comfortable on the floor, being more active," Blackshear said. "It feels good but I'm still not all the way there."