Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 Time/Location: 7:38 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865) Television: WDRB-TV Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Series History: Louisville leads 5-3 Last Meeting: U of L 91, Seton Hall 70 (Dec. 14, 2002 in East Rutherford, NJ) U of L Ranking: NR Satellite Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band) Officials: Michael Kitts, Bob Donato, Donnee Gray
Last December, Louisville traveled east to face the Seton Hall Pirates in an important early season road game. After trailing by as many as 12 points early in the first half, the Cardinals rallied to tie the score at the break and coasted to a 91-70 victory in Continental Airlines Arena.
This time around, Louisville will welcome their future conference brothers to Freedom Hall tonight at 7:38 p.m.
"We're in for a real tough game," Pitino said. "Seton Hall has just about every player back from last years team that went 10-6 in the BIG EAST and made a strong run at the end of the year. They've got one of the premier backcourts in the country. They're awfully talented, extremely experienced and tough on the glass. They're a tough, hard nosed basketball team and we've got our hands full."
Seton Hall is led by 5'10 senior point guard Andre Barrett. Barrett, a preseason Wooden Award candidate, enters the game as Seton Hall's leading scorer (18 points) and assist man (7 assists). Barrett and the Pirates enter 3-1 overall after finishing third at the Great Alaska Shootout last month.
"He's a great point guard because he's not only very fast, he's a senior and he's seen all the great competetion," Pitino said of Barrett. "He can go by just about anyone. He's a legitimate three point threat and a great pick and roll guy. They've got a dynamic backcourt with him and John Allen (12.8 ppg)."
Besides stopping Barrett, Pitino says the Cards must improve their rebounding and hopes Nouha Diakite's return to the lineup will help in that area. But if Louisville is to become consistent rebounding the ball against quality teams like Seton Hall, Pitino says it must be a team effort.
"When you play a team like Seton Hall you can't beat them if you get dominated on the glass," Pitino said. "And it's something [rebounding] that we're hoping that Nouha will certainly help but we've got to get more rebounding out of Francisco and our bench. It's got to be a team thing. We rebound with quickness rather than bulk."
"We're also turning the ball over too much," Pitino continued. "We can't work as hard as we do defensively and then give it up and turn it over. On the plus side, our field goal defense and our three point defense are very good."
One player who could help improve the Cards rebounding fortunes is 6'10 Kendall Dartez. Dartez blocked nine shots against Holy Cross and led the team with eight boards.
"Kendall's the type of guy if his self-esteem is high he's a totally different person," Pitino said. "When his self esteem is low, he beats himself up. When he feels good about himself he performs very well. He's the classic example of a person with high self esteem performing well and low self esteem just not performing well."
But the primary focus tonight for the Cards will be rebounding the basketball and getting out in transition against the Pirates.
"Our main focus is getting rebounds," Dartez said. "I need to pick my rebounding up."
"We've just got to get everyone in there crashing the boards and boxing out," O'Bannon agreed. "They're athletic at all five positions and they crash the boards really hard, so we've got to box out and keep them off the glass. But I think if we keep them off the glass and get out and run and get them fatigued it will be in our favor."
And one other player who could help the Cardinals on the boards is expected to return to action tonight.
6'9 junior forward Otis George still hadn't practiced since suffering a hip pointed against Western Kentucky last Thursday but Pitino anticipated trying him at Tuesday afternoon's practice.
"I think Otis will be fine tomorrow," Pitino said. "We're going to need Otis against Seton Hall. We have to have him."