Date: Saturday, November 29 Time/Location: 1:37 p.m./ Conseco Fieldhouse (18,345) Television: WDRB-TV Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Series History: U of L leads 2-0 Last Meeting: U of L 79, Iowa 58 (Dec. 3, 1983 in Louisville) U of L Ranking: AP 17, ESPN/USA Today 16 Satellite Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band) Officials: Jim Burr, Curtis Shaw, Reggie Greenwood
Beginning later than most everybody in the nation, the 17th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals officially tips-off the 2003-04 regular season against Steve Alford's Iowa Hawkeyes in the John Wooden Tradition at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse today.
The Hawkeye's enter the game 2-0, having defeated the Drake Bulldog's at home Tuesday night, 74-56. The Bulldog's press forced Iowa to commit 23 turnovers and trailed Alford's experienced team by just four at halftime. But the Hawkeye's turned up their defensive pressure in the second half, holding Drake to just 7-24 field goals during the final twenty minutes to pull away for its second victory of the season.
"We've had two games now," Alford said after the Drake contest. "We were very efficient offensively in Game One and didn't do a lot of the things that we wanted to do defensively. This game, we did some good things offensively. We just turned the ball over way too much. But defensively, we were very efficient. Now, playing a top-ranked team in Louisville, and a very good team as I've seen on tape, we've got to put it all together."
Alford will bring an experienced group into today's game led by 6'4 forward Pierre Pierce (21.5 points, 7.0 rebounds), 6'11 center Jared Reiner (13.5, 9.5), versatile 6'7 forward Greg Brunner (12, 6), and sharp shooting guard Brody Boyd (9.5, 4-8 3pt). Pierce has led the Haweye's in scoring in both games and provides Alford's team athleticism on the wing. Brunner and Reiner are tough rebounders in the paint and give the Hawkeye's scoring options around the basket, while Boyd can extend defenses with his shooting. Iowa will be without 6'7 forward Glen Worley, who has a broken hand.
Louisville, though, is raring to go, having begun practice some 41 days ago without playing "live" competition until today. To compensate for the late regular season start, U of L head coach Rick Pitino put his team through four intense, intrasquad scrimmages, in addition to its two preseason contests against EA Sports and the NBDL's Asheville Altitude.
Senior forward Luke Whitehead said the Cards watched the first half of the Hawkeyes game against Drake earlier this week and says the team is ready to take the court against what he thinks is a very good opponent.
"We're watching a lot of games on TV and we're getting real anxious to get our first real game under our belts," Whitehead said. "They have a really good team and we're just getting ready for them the best we can. They're real big inside, so we'll have to use some different techniques inside to outmaneuver them."
Taquan Dean, who will start his first regular season game at the point against Iowa, says the Cards will have to stop the Hawkeye's big men if it expects to win its opener.
"They're big and physical like last year against Purdue," point guard Taquan Dean surmised of Iowa. "It's a similar game and we've just got to focus in on stopping the big men."
Pitino concurs with Dean and Whitehead's assessment of the Hawkeye's, adding that Alford's team will present a greater challenge than the Purdue Boilermaker's did last season.
"This is a very big, physical team," Pitino said of Iowa. "It's one of the better passing teams I've seen in sometime. They have great size and are very quick. They're outstanding on the break and at the end of the year you're going to see them 1,2, or 3 in the Big Ten. This is a much better basketball team than we faced with Purdue last year and they were a darn good team."
Pitino hopes to counter Iowa's size and experience, with a fundamentally sound approach to the game. The Cards will try to emphasize their speed, shooting, and athleticism against the bigger Hawkeye's and will try to confuse Alford's experienced team by switching the looks its defense gives the Iowa offense.
"We're going to have to play fundamental basketball to win," Pitino said. "We can't turn the ball over. We have to make our free throws and stay out of foul trouble and do intelligent things to win. We're playing against a very seasoned basketball team."
Louisville is still awaiting word on the status of 6'9 center Nouha Diakite and the transfer from Barton County C.C. is expected to sit today against Iowa.
PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UPS
Pitino said that senior point guard Prelieu Davis will likely transfer at the semester break to a division two school if his hand injury requires surgery.
Louisville will relay heavily this season on the three pointer and attempted 71 threes in the first two exhibition games. The Cards outscored its two exhibition opponents 78-42 from beyond the arch. Iowa's two opponents on the other hand have made four more three's than have the Hawkeye's.
Iowa plays eight guys at least 15 minutes and each average better than 5.5 points per game.
Looking for a weakness in Iowa's arsenal? They've committed 40 turnovers in the first two games, including 23 against Drake in their last outing. Pierre Pierce had nine turnovers against the Bulldogs. Louisville forced 52 turnovers in the two exhibitions.
Iowa's biggest advantage over the Cards? In two games, the Hawkeyes have outrebounded their opponents 94-67, while Louisville was outrebounded 97-86 by its two exhibition opponents.
Louisville's biggest advantage other than its turnover potential? Look no further than the three point line. The Cards have made the same number of three pointers as the Hawkeye's attempted in the first two games (26).
Louisville likes playing in Indianapolis and sports a 9-3 record in Naptown despite falling to Purdue 86-84 last season.
U of L sold its 8,000 ticket allotment for today's game against Iowa.
Tickets remain for Louisville's Thursday night game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Nashville and can be ordered over the phone by calling 852-5151.