Cards must hit the boards against Pittsburgh

Ninth-ranked Louisville (13-2, 1-1) will need a strong effort on the glass to hand 12th ranked and undefeated Pittsburgh (13-0, 2-0) their first loss of the season Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall.

Ninth-ranked Louisville will play its third Big East Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall. The Cardinals have already played No. 3 Villanova, today they'll face 12th ranked Pittsburgh, one of only three teams that remains unbeaten in the country.

"Although Pittsburgh is one of three undefeated teams in the country, it's no more difficult than any other Big East game," Pitino said. "All the games are very difficult, and this team has more size and presents more problems."

The Panthers, coming off a 73-65 win over DePaul on Thursday, are led by senior guard Carl Krauser and 7-foot junior center Aaron Gray. Krauser, who leads the Panthers in scoring with a 17.7 average, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft last summer to come back to Pitt for his senior season. He said his teams strong start hasn't come as a surprise.

"This is what I came back for," Krauser said. "I told these guys that we wanted to be unbeaten now, and then go one game at a time in the Big East."

While Krauser leads the way for Pittsburgh on the perimeter, Gray provides the Panthers a physical presence inside. Gray averages 13 points and 10 rebounds, and together with Krauser gives Jamie Dixon an outstanding inside-outside combination.

"He's gotten himself into great shape and improved dramatically," Pitino said of Gray. "David (Padgett) has his work cut out, but I don't think he's going to guard him too much one-on-one in the post."

In describing Pittsburgh's strengths, Pitino essentially said he couldn't find a weakness.

"They have great size and depth," Pitino said. "Their rebound differential is about 11 per game. They're tough kids. They play terrific man-to-man defense. That's why they're undefeated."

"It's going to be a great game," Pitino added. "Pittsburgh is as good as it gets. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go on and have a great NCAA run. They have all the attributes you look for in a great team.

If Louisville hopes to hand the Panthers their first loss this season, Pitino said his Cardinals will have to do a better job on the boards than they did against Villanova last week. Villanova out-rebounded the Cardinals by 14 in that game.

"We knew if we didn't out-rebound Villanova we weren't going to win, and we believe the same thing against Pittsburgh," said Pitino. "We don't believe we can beat Pittsburgh unless we stay on the glass with them."

That means the Cardinals will need strong performances from Padgett, and 6-8 sophomore forward Juan Palacios.

"David has to play great for us to beat Pittsburgh," Pitino said. "But that's true at every position. We have to play great to beat Pitt."

Louisville also needs Taquan Dean to step up his play. Dean has struggled in recent games, and missed the Cardinals 81-58 win over UC Davis last Monday with an ankle injury. Pitino said he expects Dean will be on the court today against the Panthers.

"He doesn't have a serious ankle sprain, but he hasn't gone full bore in (practice)," said Pitino. "It's not any big deal. I think he'll be fine to play."

Freshman forward Chad Millard isn't as fortunate as Dean. Millard got rocked by Padgett's elbow during practice this week, and lost a few teeth in the process. He'll likely play against the Panthers, but he'll likely be in serious pain.

Even with the injuries to Dean and Millard, Pitino said he sees improvement in his young team, even if they aren't rebounding as well as he'd like them to be.

"I think our rebounding has been a little suspect," Pitino said. "I think our defense is improving but we still have a long way to go. We're trying to challenge as many shots as possible and stay away from taking challenged shots. We only took four challenged shots against UC Davis the whole game."

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