Pitino concerned about opener with TN-Martin

Louisville coach Rick Pitino says he's concerned about TN-Martin's experienced lineup as his seventh-ranked, but youthful Cardinals open the 2005-06 season against the OVC's Seahawks Saturday at noon.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino says he's concerned about today's season-opener against a TN-Martin squad that won just six games last season and returns only two starters.

So why is the coach of the nation's 7th ranked team worried about, especially with the game at home? For one, the Cardinals have been riddled with injuries during the preseason, and they'll likely play without starting center David Padgett today. But Pitino is most concerned about the Seahawks' experienced starting lineup (4 seniors, 1 junior), and how his inexperienced squad will fare.

"They did not have a great year last year, but they have great experience, explosive scoring ability and a terrific frontcourt," Pitino said. "So I'm really nervous about this basketball game. I'm more nervous about Saturday than at anytime since I've been a coach. I'm not as nervous now that we have Tello back."

Bret Campbell's squad boasts a physically imposing lineup that stands 6-9, 6-9 and 6-8 across the frontcourt. TN-Martin's starting guards both are 6-5, and three starters, including Louisville product Jeremy Kelly, averaged at least 12 points last season.

"The edge that we have is that we're at home, but they have the experience," Pitino said.

Kelly, a 6-5, 205-pound point guard from Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park High School, will be one of the primary targets of the Cardinals defensive efforts. He averaged 13.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last year, and has been the Seahawks leading scorer (24 ppg.) in two exhibition games this season.

PRP graduate Jeremy
Kelly leads the way for
"He's a scoring machine and we'll probably have to put one of physical defenders, either Taquan Dean or Brandon Jenkins, on him," said Pitino.

With Padgett hampered with a sprained left knee, Pitino will rely on 6-8, 255-pound sophomore forward Juan Palacios and Brian Johnson, a 6-9, 245-pound redshirt freshman, to provide an inside presence for the Cardinals. Palacios returned to practice Thursday after missing four months with an injured foot, and Pitino said he and Johnson will likely start today.

"There's no resemblance to last year's team with this team," said Pitino. "It's totally different players."

U of L will have a quick turnaround after the game, returning to the court Sunday afternoon to face a talented Southern Indiana team ranked ninth nationally in Division II. Pitino said playing two games in two days should help prepare his young squad for the three-day Colonial Classic Dec. 3-5.

"This should really help us because we're playing a team on Sunday that is really talented and could win a national championship at the Division II level," said Pitino. "I like this because in 11 or 12 days we have to play three games in a row and it should help our young guys get ready for the mental preparation of playing back-to-back games. It's really going to help us."

The first 5,000 fans will receive a poster at the game against Southern Indiana. Twenty-five of the posters will be signed by Pitino and each of those specially-marked posters will provide the lucky fans with an opportunity to have a group photo taken with Pitino following the game.

Cardinal fans will also want to be in their seats 10 minutes prior to tip-off Saturday against TN-Martin for a tribute to the Cards' 2005 NCAA Final Four team and a special live look-in at Pitino's pre-game locker room speech on the Freedom Hall video wall.

WHERE Freedom Hall TIME 12:07 TV WHAS RADIO 840 WHAS

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