|Date||Wednesday, February 25, 2004|
|Time/Location||7:38 p.m./ Freedom Hall (18,865)|
|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
|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|
|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|