Cards seek first Big East win against Friars

No. 8 Louisville (11-2, 0-1) seeks its first Big East Conference win Saturday night on the road against the Providence (7-5, 0-1) Friars. The Cardinals are coming off a 76-67 loss to third-ranked Villanova Thursday night.

In Providence, No. 8 Louisville will find a team much like its own – inexperienced.

When the Cardinals travel to Rhode Island Saturday night for their second Big East game in three days, the Friars will open the game with two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup. Guard Donnie McGrath is the Friars lone senior starter.

"Our guys are so green and new to this whole world of Big East basketball," Providence coach Tim Welsh said after his team's 72-62 loss to Georgetown Thursday night. "We're going to have to learn from it."

Pitino believes the future looks bright for the Friars.

"They've got very good young players," said Pitino.

Like Louisville, what the Friars have to learn is how to rebound the ball better in the tough and physical Big East. The Cardinals were out-rebounded by a much smaller Villanova team Thursday night in a 76-67 loss to the Wildcats, while the Hoyas out-boarded the Friars 43-34.

"What was tough for us was the backboards," Welsh said after his teams loss to Georgetown. "They were dominating the backboards. Their size was part of it, but we've got to do a better job -- we've played big teams before."

"Size doesn't make you a great rebounder," Pitino said. "Some of the great rebounders in the game can't jump."

The Friars are led by 6-11 sophomore center Randall Hanke and McGrath, a 6-5 senior guard. Hanke leads Providence in scoring with 16.2 points per game, while McGrath averages 15.2. Freshmen Geoff McDermott and Sharaud Curry also average more than 10 points.

"They're a very good offensive basketball team," Pitino said. "They have good size, good guard play and Hanke is a very skilled big man. They've played a very tough schedule and hung in with Memphis."

The Cards need to get more from senior guard Taquan Dean, who was saddled with foul trouble against Villanova. Still, Dean has been struggling lately as teams have turned their defensive attention to stopping him. In Louisville's first six games, the 6-3 Dean averaged 20.5 points, but in the seven games since he hasn't scored more than 19 and has been held below double-digits twice.

Louisville also must get more production from 6-8 sophomore Juan Palacios. Palacios scored 19 points last weekend in a win over Miami, but managed just five in the loss to Villanova.

"I think he's 6 or 7 pounds over-weight," said Pitino. "He's too heavy and he's lost some of his quickness and hops because of the injury."

Palacios has had a tendency to hoist jump shots from the perimeter, but Pitino would like to see him start to take his game inside a little bit more.

"He's got to develop a low-post game," Pitino said. "Tello can't just rely on his outside jump shot."

At 0-1 in the Big East, it's important the Cardinals can get a win against Providence. While it's not quite must win time for Louisville, the fact that they've already dropped a league game at home makes finding a way to win against the Friars that much more important.

"In order to go to an NCAA Tournament, you've got to win at home in the Big East," Pitino said. "Losing at home is something that's very dangerous for us."

That won't be an easy task against the 7-5 Friars.

"Providence on Saturday is going to be tougher than tonight because it's on the road," Pitino said after his teams loss to Villnova. "It's like going to Cincinnati or Memphis. That's just the way it is in the Big East. It's a very difficult conference."

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