|Date||Wednesday, January 7, 2004|
|Time/Location||7:38 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865)|
|Radio||WHAS (840 AM)|
|Series History||Louisville leads 21-7|
|U of L Ranking||10th AP/ 12th ESPN/USA Today|
|Satellite Coord.||SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band)|
|Officials||Steve Welmer, Gerry Pollard, Terry Moore|
Could tonight be the last time Louisville begins conference play as a member of Conference USA?
That possibility certainly appears more likely than ever but you can rest assured the 10th ranked Louisville Cardinals, coming off an impressive win over Murray State last weekend, aren't concerned about any of that.
The Cardinals focus tonight will be on starting their "second season" off on the right foot against the visiting Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
"I think we're playing well," Pitino said. "Every year you have your three seasons, pre-conference, then you have your conference play, and then you have your tournament play. We still have a lot of improvement to make and this will be the toughest the conference has ever been."
The key to beating Southern Miss appears to be on the backboard. In seven wins this season, the Golden Eagles have averaged 40 rebounds; in its four defeats, that number has dropped to just 30.
Sothern Miss returns all five starters from last season and is led by 6'9 Charles Gaines. Gaines, who enters the game averaging a double-double, provides James Green's squad an inside presence both scoring wise and on the boards.
"With all five starters back they're very dangerous," Pitino said. "They have one of the best frontcourt players, Charles Gaines, in CUSA and they have another young man who they list at 281 that is just a bear inside. So this will be a tough opener."
The Golden Eagles enter the game coming off a thrilling last second win over New Orleans on Sunday when forward Jasper Johnson made a baseline jumper with no time on the clock. They shot the ball well in that game and received strong contributions from their frontcourt.
"It was a great finish," Southern Miss coach James Green said. "Our guys did a good job of concentrating on that last play. Obviously, Jasper did a nice job of concentrating on that last shot, but he has made that before."
The Cards are on a roll, though, and have won 12 straight dating to last season in Freedom Hall. Louisville has been extremely balanced in recent games, getting peak performances from from a host of players, including Luke Whitehead, Taquan Dean, Francisco Garcia, Larry O'Bannon, and Otis George.
"We're starting to rebound the ball the batter," Pitino said. "That's the greatest improvement we've made in the last two weeks. And we're going to be put to the test because they can rebound the basketball."
They'll need to continue that improvement tonight to continue the roll they currently enjoy.
Probable Starting Lineups
|F||Luke Whitehead||6-6||220||Sr||15.7||9.4||San Francisco|
|F||Francisco Garcia||6-7||185||So||16.2||4.9||Bronx, NY|
|C||Kendall Dartez||6-10||225||Sr||5.1||4.0||Houston, TX|
|G||Taquan Dean||6-3||185||So||12.4||4.2||Neptune, NJ|
|So. Miss||(7-4, 0-0)||Ht||Wt||Yr||PPG||RPG||Hometown|
|F||Jasper Johnson||6-8||281||So||13.5||6.1||Hollandale, MS|
|F||Clement Carter||6-4||220||Sr||11.5||5.4||LaPlace, LA|
|C||Charles Gaines||6-9||223||Sr||16.7||10.5||Houston, TX|
|G||David Haywood||6-4||177||Jr.||8.8||2.3||Natchez, MS|
|G||Dante Stiggers||6-2||164||Jr||5.1||2.0||Georgetown, KY|