Cards take streak to Knoxville

#5 Louisville (14-1, 5-0) visits Tennessee (10-4, 2-3) tonight for an ESPN televised showdown.

GAME FACTS
Date Sunday, January 25, 2004
Time/Location 7:00p.m./ Thompson Bowling Arena (24,535)
Television ESPN
Radio WHAS (840 AM)
Series History Louisville leads 9-7
U of L Ranking 5th AP/ 6th ESPN/USA Today
Satellite Coord. SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band)
Officials Orlandis Poole, Gerald Boudreaux, Andre Pattilo

The Louisville - Tennessee series certainly hasn't lacked for drama the past few years.

Last year, the Cards overcame an 11 point second half deficit to escape Thompson Bowling Arena with a 72-69 victory on Kendall Dartez' short jumper with 54 seconds remaining.

Two seasons ago, Reece Gaines drained a three from the top of the key to cap a dramatic, late game comeback victory that still ranks as one of the most remarkable games of the Rick Pitino era.

And tonight's contest figures to be nothing less.

Coming off a disappointing overtime loss at home to Kentucky last week, the Volunteers, a young but talented team, have played their best ball this season in the friendly confines of their home arena.

Before the loss to UK, Tennessee was unbeaten at home this season, including a victory over Vanderbilt earlier this month.

And the Vols will certainly have the respect of #5 Louisville, who's fresh off of Wednesday night's 93-67 win over Cincinnati on ESPN.

"Tennessee has an outstanding ball club," Pitino said. "They're a young team but they're very talented. Brandon Crump is a much improved junior and they've got great size and quickness. They shoot it well and change up their defenses. And we'll have to play great to win down there."

The Vols are led by the aforementioned Crump, 6'5 Memphis transfer Scooter McFagdon, and point guard C.J. Watson. Crump can score but is most valuable as an athletic shot blocker/rebounder around the basket, while McFagdon leads the team and the SEC in scoring, three times scoring 30 or more points this season. Watson, who leads the SEC in assists (6.2), is a pass before shoot point guard.

"He's one of the best transfers in the country and an explosive scorer," Pitino said of McFagdon.

Louisville, who enters the game slightly banged up, is riding a 14 game winning streak and is rapidly gaining respect around the nation after knocking off three highly ranked foes.

"They're one of the hottest teams in the country and they'll come in here with a lot of confidence," Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson said. "We'll have to defend their three's and make them play defense for a length of time."

Sophomore Taquan Dean, who played with an injured groin against Cincinnati the other night, hasn't practiced since the game. However, Pitino expects his point guard to be near 100-percent tonight.

"He'll play," Pitino said.

Now the challenge for Louisville is to continue the remarkable winning streak without slipping up against what figures to be one of the nation's most difficult remaining schedules, beginning tonight against Tennessee.

"The fact that we're 14-1 is great for us because we realize what lies ahead," Pitino said, noting that the Cards have remaining road games against conference rivals Marquette, Charlotte, Memphis, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

"One of the big reasons we're 14-1 is that we've learned to be a good rebounding team," Pitino explained. "We're a good offensive rebounding team and we rebound together as a team."

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (14-1, 5-0) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 14.4 8.7 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 14.9 4.8 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.1 4.5 Houston, TX
G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 13.5 4.2 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 10.1 2.8 Louisville

Reserves: 6'9 Nouha Diakite 2.1, 2.7, 6'9 Otis George  5.2, 4.6, 6'3 Alhaji Mohammad 4.6, 1.5, 6'7 Nate Daniels 6.7, 2.0, 6'3 Brandon Jenkins 2.1, 1.7

Tennessee (10-4,  2-3) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Brandon Crump 6'10 255 Jr 15.8 7.3 Houston, TX
C Major Wingate 6'9 258 Fr 3.1 2.4 Florence, SC
G Stanley Asumnu 6'5 215 So 6.5 2.5 Houston, TX
G John Winchester 6'4 175 So 6.5 2.3 Stamford, CN
G C.J. Watson 6'2 175 So 11.4 4.5 Las Vegas, NV

Reserves:  6'5 Scooter McFagdon 6'8 Jeremy Hendrix 6'2 Dane Bradshaw

Notes

  • How well did Dean play against Cincinnati last week? Well, he drained five three pointers, the 11th time this season he's made at least three in a game, and finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Most impressive, however, were the zero turnovers he committed against the Bearcats constant pressure.
  • There's a lot of talk about who the best team in the country is these days. Pitino thinks Duke and UCONN top the charts currently. "I think Duke is the best team in the country," Pitino said. "They've got the most talent, they're terrific defensively, and they're great shooters. So I think they're the best team I've seen on television. And UCONN can cause problems in a half court game. So those two stick out."
  • Francisco Garcia ranks second in C-USA with 5.8 assists.

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