In Kentucky, the Cardinals will face their first true test of the 2005-06 season. The game will also be U of L's first game away from Freedom Hall. The trip figures to be an eye-opening experience for the Cardinals six freshmen.
Louisville senior guard Taquan Dean knows how difficult playing in Rupp Arena can be. Two years ago, Dean made just 2-11 shots and scored just five points against UK on the road. But the Cardinals won that game 65-56 after trailing by 14 in the first half, and Dean hit a crucial three-pointer late in the game.
"We watched the tape of my sophomore year when we went into Rupp, and the (freshmen) saw the first five minutes and they didn't realize it was like that," Dean said. "We got after it in practice the last couple days and I'm pretty sure they're ready."
Dean also pointed to North Carolina's 83-79 win at Kentucky two weeks ago as a source of confidence for his younger teammates. The Tar Heels started three freshmen in that game and led virtually the entire game.
"We watched the Carolina game, and those young guys didn't fold in that environment," Dean said. "So our guys have to do the same thing. After watching the Carolina game, they (freshmen) got a little more confident. We're just going to go in there and play our game."
Only one freshmen – 6-6 forward Terrence Williams - will start for U of L against Kentucky. Williams averages 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and has never lacked confidence in his game. Dean said he has plenty of confidence in Williams, and the other Cardinals' freshmen.
"I don't have any worries about how they'll perform," Dean said. "Basketball is basketball. It's the same length court and the same ball. We just have to keep the crowd out of the game. We can't let their fans get overly excited and be the sixth man of the game."
To keep Kentucky's fans quiet during today's game, Dean said Louisville will have to match the Wildcats intensity early in the game, and play well defensively, particularly on UK's outside shooters.
"I'm pretty sure they are going to try and get after us, and rattle us a little bit," said Dean. "We know we can't fold at all at any point of the game. We have to stick to our offense and just be strong with the ball.
Padgett played well in Louisville's past
two games, averaging 13.5 points and
While 6-11 David Padgett hasn't played against Kentucky, he's well aware of the importance of the rivalry after sitting on the bench during last years 60-58 thriller in Louisville. A sophomore transfer from Kansas, Padgett got a taste of heated rivalries as a freshman for the Jayhawks.
"When I was at Kansas, Kansas-Missouri was pretty big," said Padgett, who hit a game-winning shot against the Tigers as a freshman. "That kind of had the same type of feel as this game."
With Padgett, and 6-8 forward Juan Palacios, most prognosticators have given Louisville the decided edge up front against the Wildcats suspect frontcourt. Padgett's not taking Kentucky's inside game lightly, though.
"We're not taking any part of their game lightly," he said.
So how will Padgett deal with 7-3 Shagari Alleyne?
"You can't just take it at him to prove something," said Padgett. "He's 7-3 and he's going to block a couple shots. I think a key for us is just moving the ball like we have been, getting open shots, and not taking bad shots. That's really big for us."
Padgett said he and his teammates are ready for their first big challenge of the season.
"Everybody's been really excited about it," Padgett said. "It'll definitely be the toughest game we've played so far, and I think everyone's just excited to try and go get a win. I think more than anything it's good for us going into conference season, especially with the freshmen playing in an environment like that."
After scoring just 7 points combined in the final two games of the Colonial Classic, Padgett stepped up his game in the Cardinals last two outings. Against Akron and Chicago State, Padgett averaged 13.5 points and 8 rebounds. Padgett said a big reason for his recent improved play is that he's finally getting healthy.
"I'm probably not back to where I was, but I'm getting close," he said.