Pitino, Garcia return for Marquette

#4 Louisville (16-1, 6-0) take on rival Marquette (12-5, 3-3) today at 3:00 in Freedom Hall.

Date Saturday, January 31, 2004
Time/Location 3:00 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865)
Television ESPN
Radio WHAS (840 AM)
Series History Louisville leads 31-21
U of L Ranking 4th AP/ 4th ESPN/USA Today
Satellite Coord. SBS 6, Transponder 6 (KU Band)
Officials Steve Welmer, Hal Lusk, Mike Thibodeaux

Rick Pitino is back and he's eager to resume coaching today in a key C-USA contest againt the Marquette Golden Eagles.

"I'm coming back full-bore," Pitino said Friday. "If there are some minor, lingering problems at the end of the season then I'll take care of it. But I'm going to coach a long time, just because I love it."

Without Pitino, who underwent 36 hours of tests to determine the cause of an undisclosed urological problem, and starters Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia Wednesday night, No. 4 Louisville took care of business against Houston with strong performances from Larry O'Bannon, Alhaji Mohammed and Nate Daniels to extend their winning streak to sixteen.

Today, Garcia is likely to return to action, according to Pitino but Dean is still questionable with a pulled groin.

"I'm very concerned about this game," Pitino said. "I don't think Taquan will play but I do think Francisco will."

In sharp contrast to the Cardinals turbulent week, Marquette hasn't played since last Saturday and has had all week to prepare for their trip to Freedom Hall.

Marquette enters the game struggling a bit, having dropped three of their previous four, including an 83-61 set back to Southern Miss at home.

The Golden Eagles are led by point guard Travis Diener, forwards Scott Merrit and Steve Novak. They've also gotten solid contributions from freshman guard Dameon Mason.

Diener leads the team in both scoring (16.8) and assists (6.8) and appears fully recovered from a neck injury after scoring 15 points and handing out 12 assists against DePaul last weekend. Novak is a deadly three point shooter and Merrit a veteran in the paint, while Mason might be the top freshman in C-USA.

"Marquette is a heck of a team and Tom Crean is a heck of a coach," Louisville assistant coach Kevin Willard said. "We need to stop Diener and Novack. Hopefully we won't turn the ball over as much as we did [vs. Houston]. It will be a heck of a basketball game."

Regardless of the outcome, Louisville fans are just glad to have their coach back and in good health.

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (15-1, 5-0) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 13.8 8.4 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 15.5 4.9 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 4.8 4.8 Houston, TX
G Taquan Dean* 6-3 185 So 12.8 4.0 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 10.4 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

Marquette (12-5, 3-3) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Scott Merritt 6-10 245 Sr 12.2 6.7 Wauwatosa, WI
F Steve Novak 6-10 215 So 11.6 5.1 Brown Deer, WI
C Terry Sanders 6-8 225 Sr 6.0 4.3 Milwaukee, WI
G Dameon Mason 6-5 180 Fr 8.2 3.7 Aurora, IL
G Travis Diener 6-1 165 Jr 16.8 3.2 Fond du Lac, WI

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