Cards roll on to Greenville, face ECU

#8 Louisville (11-1, 2-0) takes its eleven game winning streak to East Carolina (8-4, 0-2) for an ESPN2 televised conference game.

GAME FACTS
Date Thursday, January 15, 2004
Time/Location 9:00 p.m./ Minges Arena (10,411)
Television ESPN2
Radio WHAS (840 AM)
Series History Louisville leads 3-1
U of L Ranking 8th AP/ 9th ESPN/USA Today
Satellite Coord. SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band)
Officials Tim Higgins, Jim Burr, Bob Donato

The East Carolina Pirates have something to prove against Louisville tonight.

For proof, just ask the the radio station officials that broadcast the Pirates games how big the Cardinals' visit is to Minges Coliseum.

"The ECU-Louisville matchup is going to be showcased on national television as a primetime game and we want to build the atmosphere in Williams Arena to an even higher level by creating a sea of gold," said Troy Dreyfus, co-owner of Pirate Radio 1250. "This will be another opportunity to show the country that the 'Pirate Nation' is for real."

The station plans to give away bright gold ECU t-shirt to the first 1,250 Pirate fans who enter the arena.

But East Carolina, which began the season 7-1, enters tonight's game on a three game losing streak, mainly due to their inability to take care of the ball.

''What's really kicking us right now is the turnovers,'' ECU coach Bill Herrion said after Sunday's loss to Charlotte. ''We had 22 against UAB the other night and had 22 tonight. You do that and you have no chance.''

And against Louisville, who's playing some of the tightest, stingiest defense in college basketball, Herrion and the Pirates better figure out how to take care of the ball much better if they want to prove their point to an ESPN2 audience.

The Pirates, a talented and veteran team, are led by the inside trio of 6'9 Gabriel Mikulas, 6'9 Moussa Badiane, and 6'6 Erroyl Bing and are paced on the perimeter by leading scorer Derrick Wiley and three point specialist Belton Rivers.

"They do a great job of getting in the lane and finding their big people," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. "They have an excellent team that have caused problems for us in the past."

The past he's referring to is a 12 point loss in Greenville two seasons ago and a four point half time deficit at home last year.

"But we're a year older and a year better," Pitino said. "And it all comes down to defense for us."

Pitino said the main reason his team is playing so well right now is because they have excellent chemistry, play great defense, are unselfish on offense, and have improved talent.

Those reasons and a changed philosphopy on defense, where there's not as much emphasis on trapping but rather to protect the basket, rotate properly and wear opponents out, has turned these Cards into a feared unit at the defensive end and has provided the spark that's ignited them during their 11 game winning streak.

"We know why we're winning," Pitino said. "Our job is to keep on winning."

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (11-1, 2-0) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 14.7 9.0 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 15.5 4.8 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.2 4.2 Houston, TX
G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 12.3 3.9 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 9.1 2.8 Louisville

Reserves: 6'9 Nouha Diakite 1.9, 2.0 6'9 Otis George  4.9, 3.7, 6'3 Alhaji Mohammad 4.9, 1.5, 6'7 Nate Daniels 6.5, 2.0, 6'3 Brandon Jenkins 2.1, 1.7

East Carolina (8-4, 0-2) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Erroyl Bing 6-7 245 Sr 9.9 7.8 Largo, FL
F Gabriel Mikulas 6-8 235 Sr 13.0 6.8 Cordoba, Argentina
C Moussa Badiane 6-10 215 Jr 7.4 5.8 Les Ulis, France
G Japhet McNeil 6'0 155 Fr 7.2 2.2 Brooklyn, NY
G Derrick Wiley 6-4 190 Sr 15.0 4.8 Durham, NC

Reserves:  6'4 Mike Cook, 6'7 Corey Rouse, 6'1 Belton Rivers, 6'4 Luke McKay

Notes

  • The Cards rank high in several statistical category's nationally, including field goal percentage defense (1st), scoring margin (2nd), and blocked shots (4th).
  • Nine of the Cardinals tweleve opponents have shot under 40 percent from the field, including the last two under 30 percent.
  • Over the last five games, the Cards have outrebounded their opponents by an average of +8.8 board per game and have held double digit margins in the last three.
  • Louisville has faced a tough schedule which should helps its seeding at tournament time. U of L's schedule ranks 15th, while its non-conference opponents rank No. 9. Louisville is 3-0 vs. the RPI Top 25 (Kentucky, Flordia, Seton Hall).
  • Taquan Dean lead the team with 40 three pointers and ranks ninth nationally in three point field goal percentage (49 percent).
  • During its last two games, the Cards have enjoyed runs of 21-0 and 25-2 and won both game by an average margin of 40 points.

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