Bigger Cards have Nova coach concerned

While Louisville coach Rick Pitino is worried about stopping Villanova's potent four-guard attack, Wildcats coach Jay Wright has his own concerns about matching up against the bigger Cardinals.

While Louisville coach Rick Pitino is worried about stopping Villanova's potent four-guard attack, Wildcats coach Jay Wright has his own concerns about matching up against the bigger Cardinals.

Louisville will open the game with 6-8 Juan Palacios at forward and 6-11 David Padgett at center. That's a problem for Wright because he'll counter with a four guard lineup – 6-1 Kyle Lowry, 6-2 Mike Nardi, 6-2 Allen Ray and 6-4 Randy Foye – and 6-8 center Will Sheridan. The Wildcats also can count on 6-10 Jason Fraser off the bench.

"It's really been something that we've been forced into by desperation when Curtis Sumpter went down in the preseason," said Wright. "It's sped up our game a lot, it's made us really concentrate on rebounding a great deal because of our lack of size, and it's made our depth more important on the perimeter so that we can keep up that (fast) pace for forty minutes."

Wright said his team was forced to make major adjustments after the 6-7 Sumpter was lost indefinitely with a torn ACL.

"We had to change everything," said Wright. "We knew we weren't going to have him back so we went with this four guard thing. And it's really helped us."

Indeed it has. Villanova has roared out of the gates this season, racing to a 9-0 record and No. 3 national ranking. They're averaging 82 points per game, and outscoring opponents by almost 25 point a night.

Despite their impressive start this season, Wright said the adjustment to playing without Sumpter has been challenging.


Villanova guards Allen Ray (14) and
Mike Nardi (12) will have to help the
undersized Wildcats compete on the
boards against Louisville. (AP)
"It really has been an adjustment," said Wright. "He was the guy that made the big-time plays when the game was on the line. He always had a confidence level that our team fed off of. But I'm very pleased because Randy Foye is now providing that for us."

Thursday night, though, Wright will find out whether his four-guard line up is a formula for success against an opponent that possesses a unique combination of size and athleticism.

"You know they're going to be very tough and physical, and they're going to play hard and unselfish," Wright said of the Cardinals. "One of the things that concerns me is they just match us very well. They're bigger at each spot yet they're just as mobile and skilled as us."

"Usually when you play four guards you're going to run into some mismatches with a bigger guy on a smaller guy," he added. "I think they have great size, length and athleticism and it could give us trouble. We really haven't faced a team like this. We want to see how we match up against bigger people."

Wright said Villanova's last opponent –Temple – had similar size as Louisville. But he was quick to point out that the Owls aren't nearly as talented as the team his squad will play tonight in Freedom Hall.

"Temple has similar size, but they weren't as skilled offensively as Louisville," he said. "So this is going to be a very tough match up for us. It's going to be a great road test for us against a very well coached team. Defensively, they're a team that could give us a lot of problems and at the offensive end can score from all five spots."

Last Saturday, Louisville completely shut down a Miami squad that employed a three-guard attack, limiting the Hurricanes to just 2-of-15 three-point shooting. Wright said it will be important for his team to shoot the ball well from outside.

"They're very athletic and can get out on the perimeter and guard, and can score from the perimeter also," Wright said of the Cardinals. "It should be a very interesting match up. It's important for us to space the floor and shoot the ball well.

Villanova has beaten Bucknell, Penn, and Temple on the road, but Wright said this game will serve as his teams first true road test this season. "I really don't know what to completely expect," Wright said. "We haven't played in an environment like this yet this year, and I don't think we've played a team with this type of athleticism and skill."

The Wildcats could get a boost for Shane Clark, a 6-8 freshman forward who played his first game of the season against Temple. Clark contributed 4 points and 4 rebounds in ten minutes of action in his first game.

"He brings us some size on the perimeter that we haven't had like Curtis Sumpter used to," Wright said. "When you look at Louisville, I think they've got the skill that our guards have with a little bit more size. He gives us help defending those kind of players and gives our opponent a different look."

Wright also expects an intense game against Louisville.

"This game is going to be a higher level of intensity because it's a Big East game," he said. "I really just want to sit back and see what happens."


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