Cards upset, look to move forward against IUPUI

Coming off a bitter defeat to rival Kentucky over the weekend, Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals (6-2) look forward to getting back on track against IUPUI (3-5) tonight in the first round of the Billy Minardi Classic.

Unfortunately for Louisville coach Rick Pitino, the story-line for tonight's opening round of the Minardi Classic against IUPUI (3-5) isn't the Jaquars speed or quickness, it's the injury problems that continue to riddle his team.

The Cardinals, already short-handed, will once again be without the services of 6-8 forward Otis George. George, who missed three games prior to returning against Kentucky last Saturday, suffered a stress-fracture in his right foot Sunday during practice that could keep him on the sideline for the next month.

If that weren't enough of a blow for Louisville (6-2), 6-8 freshman Tello Palacios, the Cardinals starting power forward who scored 11 first half points against Kentucky could also miss tonight's game because of an eye injury suffered early in the second half against the Wildcats. However, Palacios' prognosis is much better for Pitino than is George's.

"This is testing that chapter in the book," Pitino, referring to the chapter in his book on remaining positive, said of the injury problems. "Our job is to fight every possession, every game to make this a successful season with no excuses."

Pitino said Palacios' eye is healing fast and expects to have the services of his talented forward at some point during the Minardi Classic, possibly as soon as tonight's 7:08 game against the Jaguars.

"The eye heals quicker than any other part of your anatomy," Pitino said. "He's 50/50 to play [against IUPUI] but should be ready Wednesday [against either New Orleans or Austin Peay]. He'll wear [protective] glasses [when he returns]."

To cpmpensate up front, Pitino said he'll likely move 6-7 Francisco Garcia over to power forward in Palacios' stead and insert 6-6 freshman Lorenzo Wade into Garcia's normal spot at small forward.

"Lorrenzo needs to play, it will make him better come February or March," Pitino said. "We'll probably start him at small forward [tonight] with Francisco at power forward. He'll develop a lot quicker so some good things will happen because of this."

With Wade in the starting line-up, Louisville's depleted bench becomes even more exaggerated. Pitino said that he'll try to get more playing time for two players who haven't received a great deal early this season, 6-4 Perrin Johnson and 6-10 Terrance Farley, who was dismissed from the team early last week before being reinstated last Friday.

"He's been through three days of boot camp and so far so good," Pitino said of the freshman center from Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park High School. "All this turned out to be a tremendous blessing in disguise for him because he was way out of shape mentally and physically. After two weeks, this is going to make him a man and get him in great shape. It was a necessary thing."

And though Pitino's Cardinals are heavily favored against IUPUI, even with the numerous injuries, the veteran coach understands that nothing will come easy for his team.

"This is a very difficult team to play against," Pitino said of IUPUI. "They're a good basketball team. They drive at all five positions and shoot at all five positions. We could lose to anybody on schedule [right now] but we still have enough quality to beat anybody. We need the fans to get behind us."

Pitino also said his team is still smarting from last Saturday's come from ahead loss to Kentucky. He's says it's time for his team to put that loss, which he termed "devasting," behind them and move forward.

"Our team is very upset at themselves because we lost focus in the second half," said Pitino. "We have to stop licking our wounds and become a good basketball team."


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