Cards need improvement with Big East looming

Even though Louisville is 9-1 and ranked 10th nationally heading into Wednesday's game against Fairleigh Dickinson, Rick Pitino readily admits his team isn't where they need to be with Big East play right around the corner.

10th ranked Louisville's Big East opener against Villanova is lurking right around the corner. The Cardinals have two final warm-ups against Fairleigh Dickinson and Miami before they face the Wildcats at home Jan. 5.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino probably wishes he had more time to prepare his team for the rigors of Big East Conference play.

The Cardinals are 9-1 on the season, but they've padded their record against a suspect cast of opponents. In their only true test this season, at Kentucky two weeks ago, the Cardinals failed miserably. Now with just two games left to prepare for the tough Big East portion of their schedule, Pitino readily admits that his team isn't anywhere near where they should be.

"I don't think we're anywhere near where I want to be," Pitino said. "But they're making improvement and I like what I seen the past few days. We had two great practices yesterday, and we are making improvements.

Part of Louisville's problem is that they haven't proven capable on a consistent basis of dictating tempo. They've been out-rebounded in three of the last four games, have had lapses defensively, and twice have been held below 60 points.

"We're just doing a lot of little things incorrectly that lead to buckets for the other team," Pitino added. "When we trap down on the post you have to do three things after the trap comes to execute your defense. If one of three breaks down you're going to give up an easy shot, and we did that three times that led to 3's against (Detroit)."

Taquan Dean's sub-par play recently has also factored into Louisville's struggles. He shot the ball poorly last week during the Billy Minardi Classic, before heating up in the first half against Detroit Saturday. Pitino said his star guard simply needs to let the offense come to him.

"I think he's doing exactly what Francisco (Garcia) did last year," Pitino said. "He's taking shots that are difficult and he's forcing some things. He's not letting the game come to him like Francisco did. I think if he lets the game come to him, he'll make shots."

Louisville also needs more production from 6-8 forward Juan Palacios. The Cardinals only returning experience frontcourt player, Palacios has failed to score in double-figures in each of the last three games. Palacios' problem might be that he's launching too many perimeter shots.

"He's got to develop a low-post game," Pitino said. "He's getting better at it, and he's been working real hard at that."

While Palacios has been slow to take his game inside, 6-11 David Padgett has established himself as a clear threat, at least on the offensive end, in the low-post. Padgett averages 11.2 points per game, and has scored in double-figures in five of the Cardinals past six contests.

"Every time we go inside to David Padgett something good happens," Pitino said. "When we work inside to out, good things happen."

Pitino said his players are starting to learn that getting the ball inside will make the team better.

"I think they're starting to realize that when they get the ball inside to David Padgett good things happen," Pitino said. "Now we have to get it to the point where we get it inside to Tello and Brian Johnson."

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