The 5th-ranked University of Louisville (12-1, 0-0) men's basketball team will compete in its first ACC contest this weekend when it visits Wake Forest (8-6, 0-1) on Sunday evening.
The Demon Deacons have won four of their last five outings, including an 80-66 win over Providence on New Year's Eve. This will be the forth meeting between the two programs, with the Cardinals winning two of the previous three. Wake Forest won the last meeting 60-59 on March 21, 1996 in the NCAA West Region semifinals in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Cardinals will face one of the league's best rebounding teams and a team that will run the floor when the opportunities exist.
“They are very good in transition, they are very good half-court defensive team, as they pack it in and create a lot of havoc off slap downs, and they can shoot the three, and they have a terrific good low-post player,” said U of L head coach Rick Pitino. “They'll be a challenge for us. We practiced very well this week, so hopefully we'll be ready for it.”
The game will also be just the second true road game for Louisville this season. The Cardinals won at Western Kentucky last month and hope to use that experience, which had its share of on-court drama, as they hit the road for the first time in the ACC.
“We have a lot of things that emphasis about the road,” Pitino explained. “One thing is mental toughness. One thing is playing a forty-minute game. Understanding that when the crowd gets louder that you must dig in and play harder, because that means they are making a comeback or are playing well, so we have a lot of things that we look as a barometer for teaching you how to play on the road.”
While among the top programs in the country, the Cardinals Hall of Fame head coach believes his players need to continue to develop not only on the court, but in life as well, if they want to reach their aspirations for the season.
“I'm very pleased with the record, but this team is, as I've said many times, not as good as the last three years, but we want to get there,” he explained. “In order for us to get there we have to get these guys to mature as people. Not necessarily as basketball players, because let's face it, we're not going to get a lot of weight on Shaqquan and Anas, but we need our young players to mature as men. If we do that, they'll become good basketball players.”
Tip-off for the Friday night contest is scheduled for 8:00 pm at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. ESPNU will televise, with 840 WHAS carrying the radio broadcast.
Listen to the entire Rick Pitino press conference below.