Cards focus on defense, regaining momentum at TCU

#10 Louisville (17-4, 7-3) faces TCU (9-12, 5-5) tonight in Fort Worth, Texas.

GAME FACTS
Date Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Time/Location 7:00 p.m./ Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (7,200)
Television ESPN2
Radio WHAS (840 AM)
Series History Louisville leads 3-0
U of L Ranking 10th AP/ 11th ESPN/USA Today
Officials Scott Thornley, John Clougherty, Terry Moore

Having dropped three of their last four games, No. 10 Louisville hits the road again to face TCU in Fort Worth this evening.

TCU, whose last four games have been decided by six points or less and were one possession games in the final 30 seconds of action, are led by the explosive backcourt trio of Nucleus Smith, Corey Santee, and Marcus Shropshire and power forward Chudi Chinweze.

Santee, a senior from Flint, Michigan, leads the Horned Frogs in scoring, while Chinweze provides an athletic specimen up front.

"We face a team that is very dangerous," U of L head coach Rick Pitino said of TCU. "They're playing good basketball. They have outstanding offensive talent, their backcourt is as good as any in the league as is they're four man. We'll have our hands full."

After allowing a 12 point lead to slip last Thursday against Charlotte in the second half, Pitino wants the Cards to regain their fire and excellence on the defensive end of the court beginning tonight.

"We need to get our defensive tenacity back," Pitino said. "We haven't been able to play our style because we've been trying to get healthy. I fully believe if we had gone full throttle, we would have reinjured Taquan and Francisco again."

Pitino said that Garcia is nearly 100 percent after suffering injuries to both ankles in recent weeks and that Dean is making progress toward recovering from a nagging groin injury. To help his team regain their defensive excellence, Pitino has some slight adjustments in mind.

"I'm going to tinker with our lineup a little bit to get the most out of our defense and not be too concerned with offense," Pitino added.

One player who has prospered with Garcia and Dean on the injured reserve list has been junior guard Larry O'Bannon. O'Bannon, who has averaged 16.4 points during the past five contests, says practice has been better of late and the focus on defense is helping the team find its rythem once again.

"Practice has been going very well," Larry O'Bannon said. "Intensity and preparation have been like it was and we had a nice practice yesterday to get our rythem back."

"Our focus right now is to get our defense back to where it was before," O'Bannon continued. "We definitely need to get our momentum back heading into the tournament and we need to go in with a great deal of confidence and know that our defense will win games for us."

Despite giving up just 59.2 points per game this season, Louisville has surrendered more than 70 points in two of its past three losses. They'll look to improve upon those numbers starting tonight.

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (17-4, 7-3) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 13.0 9.2 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 14.9 4.9 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.6 4.7 Houston, TX
G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 12.1 3.9 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 11.5 3.0 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

TCU (9-12, 5-5) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Chudi Chinweze 6-7 220 So 10.4 4.6 Houston, TX
C Fenu Ibikunle 6-9 254 Fr 3.0 4.9 Lagos, Nigeria
G Nucleus Smith 6-2 190 Sr 7.7 4.0 Pontiac, MI
G Corey Santee 6-2 190 Jr 14.2 2.7 Flint, MI
G Marcus Shropshire 6-0 195 Jr 13.2 2.7 Grand Prarie, TX

Notes

  • Over their last four games, Louisville is shooting 82 percent (87-106) from the free throw line.
  • During the past five games, junior guard Larry O'Bannon is averaging 16.4 points per game.
  • Louisville ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.6 percent) and second in scoring margin (+18.0).
  • U of L has faced seven teams ranked in the RPI top 35 and are ranked ninth in the computer's rankings.
  • TCU has lost four of its past seven games.

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