|Date||Thursday, February 12, 2004|
|Time/Location||9:00 p.m./ Halton Arena (9,105)|
|Radio||WHAS (840 AM)|
|Series History||Louisville leads 15-14|
|U of L Ranking||9th AP/ 9th ESPN/USA Today|
|Officials||Steve Welmer, Curtis Shaw, Tim Higgins|
As the Louisville Cardinals embark on a three game road swing through Conference USA, senior guard Alhaji Mohammed says the way his team responds to the challenge of this tough stretch, which includes games against TCU and Cincinnati, will show everyone what this team is made of.
"This stretch will certainly show us how tough we are," Mohammed said.
Tonight though, the focus turns to an excellent shooting Charlotte team that also boasts, perhaps, the leagues best power forward in 6'8 Curtis Withers.
"Charlotte may be the most talented starting five in our conference," University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. "They have probably the best shooting backcourt in the nation with the most range. They're a killer on the backboard and they're great in transition. So we've got our work cut out for us."
Withers leads the Niners in both scoring (16.7), and rebounding (9.8). But trouble could be looming for Bobby Lutz and Charlotte if UNCC Athletic Director Julie Rose forces leading three point shooter Demon Brown to sit out tonight's game following an incident allegedly involving the use of a handgun by Brown last week.
As of early this afternoon, no determination had been made on Brown status for tonight's contest, but he did not start last Saturday against East Carolina, though he did see game action.
"We're pretty banged up," Pitino said.
Pitino said that the most damaging aspect of the injuries has been missed practice time which has hurt his team's cohesiveness at the offensive end. He did say that both Garcia (ankle) and George (hip) should make full recoveries from their injuries but doubted that Dean (groin) would return to 100 percent health the rest of the season.
"I don't think you'll see Taquan 100 percent this year again," Pitino explained. "I don't think it's going to happen. [He'll] get through the season, but he's got one of those injuries that just takes months to really heal. We've tried everything and nothing seems to be working."
There has been a silver lining to the recent string of injuries. For starters, shooting guard Larry O'Bannon has been excellent during the past four games, averaging 16.8 points and had a career-high 26 at Memphis last week. Forward Luke Whitehead has also stepped up his play, and has averaged 15.3 rebounds the last three games. And reserve point guard Brandon Jenkins, who struggled against Memphis' Antonio Burks, played 30 minutes without a turnover against UAB last weekend.
As for tonight, the Cardinals will have to defend the three point line against the Niners, who make 35 percent from beyond the arch in their 14 wins this season but just 29 percent in its five losses. They'll also have to keep Withers, and 7'0 freshman center Martin Iti off the backboards.
"We've got to stop the three ball," Mohammed said. "We have to stay on their right hand and not let them get their attempt."
Mohammed and the Cards hope to get their road swing started on the right foot tonight and the senior from Chicago thinks his team is starting to come back around
"Practice has gone really well since Francisco and Taquan returned and we're starting to get back to where we were," Mohammed said.
The game will tip at 9 PM and Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman will have the call on ESPN2.
Probable Starting Lineups
|F||Luke Whitehead||6-6||220||Sr||13.4||9.3||San Francisco|
|F||Francisco Garcia||6-7||185||So||15.3||5.0||Bronx, NY|
|C||Kendall Dartez||6-10||225||Sr||5.4||4.7||Houston, TX|
|G||Taquan Dean||6-3||185||So||12.2||3.8||Neptune, NJ|
|F||Eddie Basden||6-5||205||Jr||10.7||6.2||Washington, D.C.|
|C||Martin Iti||7-0||240||Fr||6.9||4.8||Sydney, Australia|
|G||Brendan Plavich||6-2||20||Jr||11.9||1.6||Dalton, GA|
|G||Demon Brown*||6-1||195||Sr||12.6||2.8||Baltimore, MD|
*Status unknown for tonight's game. May not play because of legal issues.