Cards hope Christmas comes early vs. Detroit

The Louisville Cardinals (8-1) hope to take advantage of their size in this afternoon's Christmas Eve clash against the under-sized Detroit Titans (4-4).

How rare is this afternoon's Christmas Eve clash between 11th-ranked Louisville and the Detroit Titans at Freedom Hall?

Well, it's the only college basketball game on tap today.

"This was a marketing ploy by our sports information director, Kenny Klein," Louisville coach Rick Pitino quipped.

The Cardinals beat Middle Tennessee and the College of Charleston earlier this week to claim the fourth annual Billy Minardi Classic title. After losing on the road to rival Kentucky one week ago, Louisville's hoping for a third straight home court win over Perry Watson's guard-dominated Titans.

"They have a very good backcourt," Pitino said. "They played an Ohio U team (Thursday) night who was 6-1 to a one-point game. They're a good team, but we're starting to play better. We're picking it up at the defensive end, which is something I want to see. I'm hoping that we can continue to make improvement."

Louisville also will have a decided advantage size-wise against the Titans. While Pitino will start a frontline that standing 6-11, 6-8, and 6-6, the Titans have no starter taller than 6-7.

That's why David Padgett, the Cardinals' sophomore center, probably should be ready. Padgett has scored 42 points the past three games, and he figures to be a major part of Louisville's game-plan today.


Louisville coach Rick Pitino hopes to take
advantage of David Padgett's size against
the Detroit Titans.
"We're hoping to take advantage of David's size," Pitino said. "But they're a very quick, tough team. They don't back down because they're a little undersized. They're tough kids."

Louisville limited the College of Charleston to just 36 percent shooting Wednesday night in a 78-63 win. And while Pitino is pleased to see his team improve defensively, he still says they have a ways to go.

"I think we're still weak in transition," he said. "Our transition defense is probably the weakest element, but I think we're learning to rotate properly and cover for each other."

Detroit guard Brandon Cotton, a former McDonald's All-American, comes into the game averaging a team-high 17 points per game. He scored 24 points in a 56-55 loss to Ohio Thursday night, and should provide a stern challenge for the Cardinals' defense.

Louisville guard Brandon Jenkins might be charged with stopping the Titans leading scorer. Jenkins, a junior from Detroit, enters the game playing the best basketball of his career. He averaged 17 points in the two Minardi Classic games, earning tournament MVP honors.

"He's playing with a great deal of confidence right now," Pitino said the other night. "Nothing has been said, but you can just tell he's a different person the way he feels about himself."

"When you look at what Brandon Jenkins is doing besides scoring, what has impressed me about him is what he's doing on defense, on the glass and with his rotations. That's the best part about Brandon Jenkins right now."

For Christmas, Pitino said he just wanted to see "improved play," from his team. Certainly, he'd also like to get better performances from two of his star players, guard Taquan Dean and forward Juan Palacios.

During the past three games, Dean has made just 27 percent of his field goal attempts (10-of-36), and scored a season-low six points on 2-11 shooting against Charleston. Like Dean, Palacios has been struggling of late and scored just 12 points the past two games.

"He'll be fine, he's just got to use the offense to get off his shot," Pitino said of Dean.

Pitino blamed Palacios' injured ankle for most of his recent struggles. "He's not playing particularly well," Pitino said. "It's not that Tello doesn't want to do it, but five and a half months without playing, it doesn't come back right away. He's nowhere near back."


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