Defense critical as Cards get underway in Hawaii

The University of Louisville men's basketball team arrived in Hawaii Thursday night and Coach Rick Pitino says that the play of his team on the defensive end of the court will be criticial to their success while in the tropics.

GAME NOTES #14 Louisville vs. BYU-Hawaii

Saturday, November 20
5:30 PM Tip-Off
No Television, Play-by-Play on AM 1080

The University of Louisville will tip-off the regular season Saturday in Hawaii against Divison-II BYU-Hawaii this Saturday in preparation for next week's Maui Invitational tournament.

U of L Head Coach Rick Pitino, who scheduled the game against BYU-Hawaii as a tune up for Monday's opening round game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, says his team is looking forward to getting the new season started.

"I think we'll be as ready as our competition will be," Pitino said. "It's going to be a fun trip and we're really looking forward to it."

Pitino, who begins his fourth season at U of L since returning from the NBA ranks, predicted that BYU-Hawaii, which went 23-6 last season, would provide a stiff challenge for his team.

"We knew that they would be good because that's what we were looking for [when we scheduled them]," Pitino said. "They beat four division-1 opponents last season, they have a 24-point scorer back (6-8 forward Jake Chrisman) and they're experienced and talented."

With several experienced and talented players returning for BYU-Hawaii, Pitino warned not to expect much experimentation from his troops in the season-opener.

"We've got to try to win this one because if we try to experiment too much we'll get beat," Pitino said.

With so many natural distractions on the Hawaiian Islands, Pitino said the key for the coaching staff is to balance fun and sun with taking care of business on the basketball court.

"You just want to keep them away from tiring themselves, from getting too much sun," explained Pitino. "We are going to take them snorkling, except for Brandon Jenkins who can't swim."

Heading into the season's first four games in Hawaii, Pitino's main concern is his teams play at the defensive end. Having lost three seniors from last season's team, Luke Whitehead, Kendall Dartez and Alhaji Mohammed, whom Pitino considered solid defensive performers the veteran coach knows his new group has lots of room for improvement on defense.

"I don't feel great about our defense," Pitino said. "I think our offense is very much there but we're struggling with playing solid ball, you, man defense. But I think they can be a good team defensive unit."

Pitino, who voices no concern about the Cardinals ability to score points, especially in transition, hopes his team can become as effective at stopping easy points on the fast break as they have proven capable of scoring them this preseason.

"We're pretty good on the fast break," Pitino said. "What concerns me is that we can't stop our own fast break in practice."

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