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    Louisville will try to end Saint Louis jinx

    #25 Louisville (18-7, 8-6)) travels to Saint Louis (15-10, 8-6) to face off with the Billikins Wednesday night at the Savvis Center.<p> <B>BONUS GAME COVERAGE</B><br><li><a href="http://louisville.theinsiders.com/2/239098.html"><B>Nouha Diakite Leaves Team</b></a> <li><a href="http://louisville.theinsiders.com/2/239026.html"><B>Pitino provides insight into March Madness</b></a>

    GAME FACTS
    Date Wednesday, March 3, 2004
    Time/Location 8:10 p.m. / St. Louis Savvis Center (20,000)
    Television WDRB
    Radio WHAS (840 AM)
    Series History Louisville leads 43-20
    U of L Ranking 25th AP/ 23rd ESPN/USA Today
    Officials David Hall, Steven Pyatt, Larry Ware

    Saint Louis hasn't been the most friendly place for the Louisville Cardinals. In fact, the Cardinals have lost six straight under the arch and haven't won a game against the Billikens in Saint Louis since 1996.

    Of course, last season we all recall the dramatic last two minutes of action when Billiken point guard Marque Perry scored with 3.2 seconds left for a 59-58 victory. That victory snapped then-No. 2 ranked Louisville's 17 game winning streak and saw the Billikins rally from a 57-50 deficit in the last 1:58 to continue its home court streak over the Cardinals.

    This season, Saint Louis has been equally as tough at home. Owners of a 15-10 record overall, the Bills are 11-2 at home, the only losses coming by 1 point to Arizona and by 2 points to DePaul.

    Brad Soderberg's squad is led by the talented backcourt duo of Josh Fisher and Villanova transfer Reggie Bryant and a defense that ranks sixth nationally in scoring at 57.1 points allowed.

    "They're style is very difficult to play against, maybe the most difficult to go against in the league," U of L Coach Rick Pitino said. "Against their style you have to play every second and be alert. They have the highest scoring backcourt in the league and they rely on their offense to get them their shots."

    With his offense struggling of late, Pitino said he's been fiddling with his player rotations to find the right mix of offensive and defensive balance to counter what opposing teams are using against his squad.

    "What we're trying to do now with our lineups is to incorporate better defense in with the offense," Pitino explained. "With our old substitution patterns of Junior, Brandon and Otis, teams would immediatly counter with zones to negate our substitutions. So we're trying to negate that with our substitution patters a bit."

    Snapping a four game losing streak over the weekend to Memphis, Pitino and troops are now focused on continuing to show improved play and getting prepared for post-season action.

    "I think this time of year every game is a big game for everyone," Pitino said. "So you're playing for seeding and who you're going to play in the conference tournament. But the most important facet for us after getting that win against Memphis is to continue to play better basketball."

    "Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament," Pitino continued. "Now that I feel assured that we will get a bid, it's time to play good basketball and have a chance at winning. And I saw glimpses of it at Cincinnati. Even in the home loss to DePaul we played real good basketball for a stretch. And against Memphis we played very good defense. And that's what we want is to get back to playing great defense."

    With identical records in league play (8-6) there's much at stake tonight for both Louisville and Saint Louis. Can Louisville end the Saint Louis jinx and begin another winning streak to gain some much needed momentum heading into C-USA tournament action next week?

    That question will almost assuredly be answered tonight.

    Probable Starting Lineups

    Louisville (18-7,  8-6) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
    F Luke Whitehead 6-6 220 Sr 11.9 8.5 San Francisco
    F Francisco Garcia 6-7 185 So 15.4 4.7 Bronx, NY
    C Kendall Dartez 6-10 225 Sr 5.4 4.5 Houston, TX
    G Taquan Dean 6-3 185 So 10.9 4.0 Neptune, NJ
    G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 11.1 2.9 Louisville

    Reserves: 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

    Saint Louis (15-10, 8-6) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
    F Izik Ohanon 6-9 220 Jr 7.1 2.8 Tel Aviv, Israel
    F Chris Sloan 6-7 215 Sr 10.1 4.7 St. Peters, MO
    C Ian Vouyoukas 6-9 250 Fr 2.4 1.7 Athens, Greece
    G Josh Fisher 6-2 200 Sr 11.3 4.2 Mercer Island, WA
    G Reggie Bryant 6-2 205 Jr 17.0 4.0 Baltimore, MD

    Notes

  • Louisvile non-conference RPI is No. 2. The Cardinals, who've played a difficult slate of non-conference opponents is ranked No. 8.
  • Over the past nine games, the Cardinals have made 79 percent of their free throws.
  • Louisville is 4-1 against top 25 teams this season.
  • Pitino thinks Dean can improve to about 80 percent using him the way they are and still get 20-22 minutes of good play from the sophomore.
  • While the Cardinals have been outrebounded in their past six games, the Billikens average naerly three less rebounds per game during conference action.

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