|Date||Wednesday, March 10, 2003|
|Time/Location||7:00 p.m. / U.S. Bank Arena|
|Radio||WHAS (840 AM)|
|Series History||Louisville leads 4-1|
|U of L Ranking||unranked|
East Carolina enters tonight's game against Louisville in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament with all-important momentum.
Winners of four of their past fives games, the Pirates are eager for some post-season action after failing to qualify for last seasons conference tournament in Louisville.
The two teams have met once previously this season, a 76-66 Louisville victory in Greenville.
"Well they're playing much better basketball," Pitino said of the Pirates. "They're playing a different point guard more minutes and he's doing a very good job of getting by people and creating things. They're very physical and they're an excellent rebounding team."
East Carolina is led by forward Derrick Wiley, who scored 23 points in the first meeting, and guard Mike Cook.
"We're an improved team," East Carolina head coch Bill Herrion said. "And we've played like well the last month and a half. We've had a lot of close games, but we just can't finish on the road."
Rick Pitino knows his team, who've won two of their past three game, will have to be hitting on all cylinders to advance.
"We're going to have to play really well to beat East Carolina," Pitino said. "Then we're going to have to get some strong fan support the next night against Cincinnati to negate their home court advantage if we're fortuante to get past East Carolina."
Like the Pirates, the Cardinals have struggled to win close games on the road late in the season, losing a one point decision in the season finale at Marquette. One of the big reasons has been the Cardinals inability to grab key rebounds when they need them most.
"My concern is the fact that we don't get more rebounding from the one, two and three positions," Pitino explained. "Our fours, and fives are battling but there is not a great individual rebounder on the team. We've got to do it with everybody."
Two of the more important factors to post-season success, according to Pitino, is playing great defense and haing experience players to execute in crucial situations.
"The two things that I think are the most important factors in March are defense and experience," Pitino said.
As for the late season slide, which has seen Louisville drop seven of its last ten, Pitino points out that the injuries suffered to Francisco Garcia, Taquan Dean and Luke Whitehead played a large impact. And despite the losses, Pitino feels his team is playing well on the court.
"We've had injuries and despite that we've played really good basketball," Pitino said. "We've played only one poor game the entire year at TCU. So we're not limping at all."
"I like the way we're playing basketball right now," Pitino continued. "I would not get too wrapped up in this conference tournament, win or lose, because we're up against it. The one thing that I enjoy is passing and movement and that's why been shooting so well. That aspect of our game is back. And Taquan looks like he's coming back."
Should Louisville defeat East Carolina, they'll face Cincinnati Thursday night in the quarterfinals.