George, who missed Louisville's past three games because of an injured foot, was the Cardinals second leading rebounder (6.5) before suffering the injury during practice. Pitino said he's worked George slowly back into shape during practice this week, playing him 40-percent of the time the past two days. But with tomorrow's showdown less than 24 hours away, Pitino plans to double George's practice time today to prepare him for his first game-action in two weeks.
"Otis will play in this game," Pitino said Friday morning. "From a conditioning standpoint he's not 100-percent but his foot is fine and he'll play."
George was a key reason why U of L pulled out a 65-56 victory over Kentucky last season in Rupp Arena, finishing with a game-high 13 points and 8 rebounds to earn CBS Player of the Game honors. Pitino said George, Louisville's top reserve in the frontcourt, makes the Cardinals better in two key areas.
"He improves our defense and rebounding, especially on the offensive [boards]," Pitino said. "He's maybe the best shot blocker we have and he really makes our defense go."
With George's return, U of L is still thin up front. But, unlike last weekend's game against Florida, Pitino now will have someone, George, who he can substitute for starting forwards Ellis Myles and Tello Palacios.
"We're still thin, but at least we can substitute a frontcourt player," Pitino said.
George, who also is averaging eight points this season, said his foot is feeling much better and is regaining the confidence he had prior to the injury.
"I'm feeling pretty good," George said. "I think I can go in there and do a lot. My foot is better and I'm getting my confidence back. I think I can help the team a lot."
"It feels good to be back," George continued. "My foot still gets sore after awhile and I have to rest it but it doesn't swell anymore and that's a good sign."