U of L basketball: Weekly notebook

MIAMI – The University of Louisville went back to work on Sunday night, practicing for next week's rival game against Kentucky. Here are a few notebook items from the defending national champion Cardinals.

BACK TO WORK FOR UK GAME

With a victory over Florida International on Saturday, the Louisville basketball team remains in Miami and started preparation for Kentucky on Sunday.

The Cardinals are going through a two-hour practice on Sunday night and will have another practice on Monday morning in Miami.

U of L coach Rick Pitino will then give his team Tuesday and Wednesday off for Christmas and the players will go home to see their families.

He said after the FIU win that the team will then have a practice on Thursday afternoon and one on Friday before playing at UK on Saturday.

"We'll get four good practices in," Pitino said.

MANGOK JUST KEEPS IMPROVING

Redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang has been one of the most improved players on the roster for the Cardinals this season.

The 6-foot-11 Mathiang has made improvements "daily," according to Pitino who noted the center is showing improvement in all facets of his game.

Mathiang is averaging 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. He leads the Cardinals with 16 blocked shots.

"It's quite noticeable," Pitino said. "It's very rare you see an athlete get better almost on a daily basis. But because he had so much room for improvement, he does get better on a daily basis."

Pitino said there's still "plenty" of room for improvement for Mathiang.

"He altered a lot of shots, " Pitino said of his game against FIU. "He's doing things that he couldn't do two weeks ago."

EXTENDED ROAD TRIP

The win over FIU was the first of four straight road games for the Cardinals. After the game at UK, U of L will play at Central Florida on New Year's Eve and then at Rutgers on Jan. 4.

"This is a good start for four in a row, it's a win," Pitino said.

The Cardinals will have 23 days between games at the KFC Yum Center, marking the longest streak of days between home games since the 1980-81 season.

It's the first time the Cardinals have played four straight games on the road since 2000-01 when they did it in late February.

Russ Smith NEEDS TO IMPROVE

Pitino said Russ Smith had his worst game of the season against FIU, noting the All-American didn't take care of the things on the defense.

Smith said he had some "careless" turnovers and just didn't "feel like I played that great," in the win over the Panthers.

"Russ has to do a better job on defense for us," Pitino said.


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