Palacios may not play against SIU

Sophomore Juan Palacios started and played 30 minutes in Louisville's season-opening 78-61 win over Tennessee-Martin Saturday afternoon. The 6-foot-8 forward posted a double-double and was a major factor inside for the Cardinals.

Juan Palacios didn't ease back into the action Saturday against Tennessee-Martin. Instead, the 6-foot-8 sophomore played 30 minutes against the Skyhawks and was a big reason why No. 7 Louisville won their season-opener 78-61.

Palacios' return to the court this early in the season after tearing the ligaments in his right ankle last summer wasn't expected. But after an MRI this week showed Palacios was ready to return, U of L coach Rick Pitino didn't hesitate putting his star forward in the starting lineup after only two days of practice.

"Without Tello, we would not have won tonight," Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said. "Experience wins over talent in college. We are lucky we got him back."

And though Palacios hasn't played much basketball since injuring his ankle nearly five months ago, he was highly effective on the court and appeared in great condition. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, hitting 5-9 shots from the field and 6-10 free throws.

"I was just happy to be back on the court," Palacios said. "Everything came out great today."

Palacios credited Louisville's training staff, particularly Ray Ganong, for helping him get stronger and maintain his physical conditioning while awaiting his return to the court.

"They did a great job pushing me everyday to get back," said Palacios. "And I watched what I ate. I feel like I'm stronger this season and sitting out and watching helped me out mentally."

Fans shouldn't expect Palacios to play much, if any at all, in U of L's exhibition Sunday evening against Division II Southern Indiana. Palacios said that his foot will be sore after playing Saturday, and he expects he'll have to sit and rest it Sunday.

"I could play but the next 24 hours my ankle is probably going to hurt," explained Palacios. "Like yesterday, I didn't practice (much) after practicing Thursday just to get ready for today. And that's probably how it's going to be for a while. Just a play it by ear thing."

Pitino said Palacios' play was simply "astonishing."

"He just hasn't played basketball," said Pitino. "Five and a half months without touching a ball and that is very tough. To do what he did tonight was astonishing. The only thing I asked him to do was not dribble the ball. I probably won't play him tomorrow (unless) he tells me he feels good."

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