Cards take on 'wounded tiger'

#25 Louisville (3-1) takes on top ranked Florida (5-1) today at noon in an ESPN televised contest.

GAME FACTS


Date:                    Saturday, December 13, 2003
Time/Location:     12:00 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865)
Television:           ESPN
Radio:                  WHAS (840 AM)
Series History:      Louisville leads 5-1
Last Meeting:       U of L 83, Florida 68 (Dec. 29, 1993)
U of L Ranking:    25th ESPN/USA Today
Satellite Coordinates:  SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band)
Officials:              John Clougherty, Tom Eades, Andre Pattillo

University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino seeks his 400th career victory today against former player and coaching pupil Billy Donovan and the #1 ranked Florida Gators at high noon on ESPN.

But with all that's going on this week, that milestone is the farthest thing from Pitino's mind.

"That's about the only thing that I haven't thought about this week," Pitino said of his victory total.

Today's game also marks the third anniversary of the Billy Minardi Classic since Pitino's best friend and brother-in-law died tragically in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Pitino expects more than 60 friends and family members of Minardi's to be in attendance today to celebrate his life and memory.

Donovan, whose Gators lost in overtime Wednesday night to Maryland at home after becoming the nation's top ranked team just days before, though, is interested to see how his team responds from the loss in a tough road game against the Cards.


Billy Donovan (UF Photo)

"To be able to bounce back from this will be very, very important," Donovan said. "We have not proven that we can do that yet because this is obviously a new team. So I think how we respond on the road against Louisville is going to be very, very interesting."

However, given his druthers, Pitino said Friday he'd prefer the Gators had defeated the Terrapins earlier this week, instead of entering the game angry about a close loss and likely losing their top ranking.

"We have a #1 wounded tiger on our hands," Pitino said. "I think Florida is one of the most gifted offensive basketball teams in college basketball. They've got outstanding talent, cause a lot of difficult matchup problems, they space the floor very well and use pick and rolls to create difficult situations to defend, which opens up a lot of inside play as well as three point shots."

The Louisville basketball family and sophomore forward Francisco Garcia are still coping with the news of the death of Garcia's brother, Hector Lopez, earlier this week. Garcia played Wednesday night against Seton Hall, just one day after learning that his younger brother had been murdered, and scored 24 points in leading U of L to an 81-70 win. However, Pitino says this game will be much more difficult for Garcia after visiting his mother in New York on Thursday and viewing the body of his brother at funeral services.

"It was very difficult," Pitino said of Garcia's trip home. "Because at first we thought he was just visiting his family…he didn't know that he was going to a wake and funeral services…he thought because of the crime that he was just visiting his mom. It's been much more difficult coming back then it was going because he's been distraught ever since coming back from viewing the body. He'll have a tougher time with this game than he did the last game."

Taquan Dean says he expects his friend and teammate to play like a champion despite the recent tragedy to his brother.

"He has the heart of a champion and he's going to play," U of L starting point guard and Garcia confidant said. "I don't expect anything less from the last game. It's a big game with national television and he's going to come to play."

On the basketball front, Pitino put the Cardinals through a late Friday afternoon practice session, while Donovan's Gator's were scheduled to do likewise upon their arrival in the "Ville" yesterday evening.

"We understand what this game means to coach," UF forward David Lee said. "It's safe to say we're going to have to bring it on Saturday."

After watching film of Florida in action, Dean knows exactly what the Cardinals have to do to knock off the the #1 ranked Gators with Dick Vitale doing commentary from courtside.

"They're a great passing team, everyone can penetrate and they're great on the fast break" Dean said. "So we're going to have to really concentrate on defense and move the ball offensively."

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (3-1) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 16.0 10.5 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 19.0 4.5 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.8 4.8 Houston
G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 9.8 3.0 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 200 Jr 10.7 3.0 Louisville

Reserves: 6'9 Nouha Diakite, 3.5, 2.5, 6'9 Otis George, 1.0, 0.8, 6'3 Alhaji Mohammad, 4.0, 1.3, 6'7 Nate Daniels, 4.5, 3.0, 6'3 Brandon Jenkins, 2.5, 2.5

Florida (5-1) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Christian Drejer 6-9 228 So 10.0 5.3 Hallerup, Den.
F David Lee 6-9 253 Jr 12.8 6.8 St. Louis
C Bonnell Colas 6-9 225 Sr 8.5 4.7 Miami
G Anthony Roberson 6-1 180 So 17.0 2.8 Saginaw, Mich
G Matt Walsh 6-6 205 So 15.5 6.0 Holland, Pa

Reserves: 6'3 Rashid Al-Kaleem, 4.4, 1.8, 6'9 Adrian Moss, 6.8, 6.3, 6'9 Mohamed Abukar, 4.8, 3.0, 6'7 Chris Richard, 4.3, 5.3

Notes

  • Louisville has faced the number one ranked team in the nation five times with its only win coming over Seton Hall in 1953.
  • Francisco Garcia has scored 48 points in his last two outings, matching his career high on both occassions with 24.
  • Luke Whitehead has recorded 8 double-doubles in his last ten games dating to last season. He had 14 points and 11 boards against Seton Hall.
  • Louisville leads the NCAA with 9 blocked shots per game.
  • Rick Pitino is 13-1 all-time against his former assistants.
  • U of L is making the most of its free throw opportunities, hitting 77.4% (65-84), through four games to rank first in C-USA and 12th nationally in free throw percentage.
  • While the Gators average 19 assists per game, they turn it over at about the same clip (18 TPG)
  • Florida is outrebounding opponents by 10 per game but were outrebounded by Maryland, Arizona and were even with UCF.
  • Today's trip to Freedom Hall will be the Gators first road game of the season.

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