Cards want better defense in final UK tune-up

Fourth-ranked Louisville (5-0) will be focused on making defensive improvement when they play Chicago State (1-5) tonight in their final tune up before Saturday's showdown on the road against Kentucky.

Fourth-ranked Louisville's game Tuesday night against Chicago State should be nothing more than a warm up for Saturday afternoon's showdown against Kentucky.

The Cougars enter tonight's game just 1-5 on the season, and, unlike the Cardinals, haven't played a home game yet this season.

"They're the opposite of us, they like the road," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who's young team has played all five games in the friendly confines of Freedom Hall this season. "They don't have a home. They're a team you don't judge by their record because they've played on the road all season."

Louisville's coming off their most impressive game of the season, a 111-85 win over Akron last weekend. While the Cardinals seemed to hit their stride offensively against the Zips (U of L handed out 30 assists vs. Akron), Pitino wasn't pleased with their defense.

"We played terrific offensively last week, but we played very poor defense," Pitino said. "As brilliant as our offense was, that was as bad as we were on defense, especially our post defense. Our weak side rotations were also very poor."

With just four days until their first road test of the season against Kentucky in Rupp Arena, Pitino will be watching his teams' play on defense tonight very closely. He spent time going defensive film clips with his team earlier this week, and his players should expect a strong emphasis on defense the next few days in practice.

"We'll overcome our (defensive problems) during the semester break," said Pitino. "We just haven't had a lot of practice time together."

While Taquan Dean earned Big East Player of the Week honors for his efforts against Richmond and Akron last week, the recent play of sophomore forward Juan Palacios is a significant development for U of L.

"The last game was the first time he mixed it up," said Pitino of Palacios. "He did some rebounding, (ran) the court and passed the ball. He's just coming off not playing basketball for five months. His first game (back) I was not impressed after watching the film. But he played great in the last game."

And while Pitino says he hasn't yet turned his attention to Kentucky, you know Saturday's game against the Wildcats isn't far from his mind.

"It's just standard for me to just watch the next opponent," Pitino said yesterday. "I've always done it that way as a superstition. After (tonight's) game I'll watch the tape on (Kentucky).

And though Pitino doesn't think his team is ready for its first road test, there's no question his team will show up and play hard.

"We're not ready defensively right now," he said. "But we'll play hard, and together. I'm not interested in this basketball team playing its best basketball right now. I want to play great basketball in February. (Kentucky) is going to be a very, very tough test, no question about it."

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