Cards face must-win against DePaul

#21 Louisville (17-6, 7-5) takes on DePaul (15-8, 8-4) tonight in Freedom Hall.

GAME FACTS
Date Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Time/Location 7:38 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865)
Television WDRB
Radio WHAS (840 AM)
Series History Louisville leads 28-20
U of L Ranking 21st AP/ 21st ESPN/USA Today
Officials Rick Hartzell, Larry Ware, Danny Hooker

This is the most important game of the season for Louisville. If ever there was a must win game on the Cardinals schedule, make no mistake, it is tonight's contest against the visiting DePaul Blue Demons.

"For what is at stake, this is the biggest game of my three years coming up," Pitino said of tonight's contest. "This game against DePaul is our season."

Having dropped five of its past six games and three straight on the road, Louisville desperately needs a win tonight on its home court.

But it certainly won't be a cake walk for Louisville against a very talented DePaul team. Led by center Andre Brown and forward Delonte Holland, the Blue Demons have won eight of their past ten games and have already equalled last season's C-USA victory total (8).

"DePaul may be has the six best players physically in the league," Pitino said. "They might have the best center in Andre Brown. Sammy Majia is a terrific freshman. And Delonte Holland is leading the league in scoring."

"They are a very physical, very powerful, very talented one-on-one team," Pitino continued. "This will have to be one of our better defensive efforts of the year."

Fortunately for Pitino, his team showed signs of breaking out of its February slump during the second half of Saturday's overtime loss to Cincinnati. Not only did the Cardinals offense come alive behind the rejuvenated Francisco Garcia but they also held the Bearcats to 54 points in regulation without starting forward Luke Whitehead. Whitehead, who missed three practices because of an injured left ankle suffered against Texas Christain, is expected to return for tonight's contest.

Since the 6'7 forward from New York suffered an ankle injury at Tennessee January 21, Louisville's shooting and scoring output have dropped dramatically from its early season form. With a season low 15 first half points against Cincinnati, the Cardinals looked as though their slump would continue unabated on the offensive end.

But if Garcia's importance to the effectiveness of U of L's offensive output was in doubt, his performance Saturday erased those. Having shot 35 percent or below from the field in five of its past seven games, the Cardinals were reeling without quality performances from Garcia.

But a 27 point, 7 assist outburst against the Bearcats appeared to end both Garcia's and Louisville slump on offense. After scoring just 15 first half point, Garcia and the Cardinals hung 39 on the Bearcats, while shooting 54 percent after intermission.

So with the losses and the injuries, just how important is tonight's game to Pitino? Consider this. He put U of L fans on notice immediately following last Saturday's loss that they'll have to be at full throttle tonight against DePaul.

"Our fans have got to be ready for this game," Pitino said. "We need them for this game and they have to get there at 9 o'clock in the morning to tailgate."

Probable Starting Lineups

Louisville (17-6, 7-5) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 12.5 8.9 San Francisco
F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 15.1 4.7 Bronx, NY
C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.5 4.5 Houston, TX
G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 11.7 4.2 Neptune, NJ
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 11.1 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

DePaul (15-8, 8-4) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
F Delonte Holland 6-7 220 Sr 16.9 4.9 Greenbelt, MD
F Quemont Greer 6-7 220 Jr 12.1 7.4 Milwaukee, WI
C Andre Brown 6-9 245 Sr 14.1 10.1 Chicago, IL
G Sammy Mejia 6-6 195 Fr 8.3 4.7 Bronx, NY
G Drake Diener 6-5 180 Jr 12.4 3.2 Fond du Lac, WI

Notes

  • Louisville has won the last eight games in this series played in Freedom Hall and own a 13-1 record against the Blue Demons in C-USA action.
  • Louisville is 14-2 when it outrebounds its opponent. They were beaten on the boards each of their past three road defeats.
  • DePaul's Sammy Mejia and Louisville's Francisco Garcia played on the same club team in the Bronx.
  • Pitino said Tuesday that when it's all said and done, he thinks Reggie Theus, who has been mentioned as a candidate at UNLV, will remain at U of L.

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