Dean, the Cardinals leading scorer, sprained his ankle in the second half against Providence two weeks ago. He then missed Louisville's next game, an 81-58 win over UC Davis. Against the Panthers, it was apparent Dean was in severe pain when on the court.
With the exception of freshman forward Terrence Williams, who scored a career-high 26 points, Louisville struggled offensively against Pitt without Dean on the floor. Despite holding the Panthers to just 61 points, and 38 percent shooting, the Cardinals dropped their second straight Big East home game.
"We obviously have tremendous offensive droughts without him," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I think we've got to get him healthy, but we're also looking at if we keep losing we're really going to be behind the eight-ball. It's a tough situation right now."
Plain and simple, Louisville needs a win tonight against St. John's. At 1-2 in the conference, the Cardinals are in a precarious position, especially with two games left against both No. 3 UConn and Cincinnati, and road games to No. 7 Villanova, No. 12 West Virginia, and No. 20 Syracuse.
"We've got to get him better," Pitino said. "What you're seeing out there is very gallant on his part, but he's just limping all over the place every time he tweaks it the wrong way. So we're caught between a rock and a hard place whether to play him or not."
Terrence Williams scored 26 points in
Louisville's last game against Pittsburgh,
and the Cardinals will need another big
offensive performance from the freshman
forward tonight against St. John's.
In St. John's, the Cardinals will face another physical team that likes to get after it on the glass.
"They're a very physical team," Pitino said. "They're a terrific rebounding team with great athleticism that averages a plus ten on the glass. They play great man-to-man defense, very aggressive."
Though Dean sat and watched from the bench most of the game against Pittsburgh, Pitino put his senior guard on the floor with the game on the line late in the second half. Dean responded with a deep three-pointer in the final minutes to cut Pittsburgh's lead to two, but missed a potential game-winner minutes later.
"We tried to use him yesterday to win the game and make some big shots, but he couldn't play," said Pitino. "We couldn't get 15 minutes out of him. Whether he can (play) tomorrow, I don't know. I know he wants to play, but I don't want to hurt him in any way."
Pitino said Dean probably won't start the game against the Red Storm, and he's not sure whether the 6-3 New Jersey native will even play.
"The most important thing right now is that we get a victory," Pitino said. "But playing on one leg is not going to do Taquan or the team any good. If he's not 100 percent, and I don't believe he will be, I would doubt he's going to play."
The Cards arrived in New York Monday afternoon, and planned to see a few sights before conducting a Tuesday morning practice session at Madison Square Garden, site of tonight's 9 PM clash with St. John's.
"We're just going to practice in the Garden, let the guys see New York a little bit, and just focus on the (game)," Pitino said. "With only one day of preparation time, we've got to really hunker down at the hotel and watch a lot of film."
Once a coach for the New York Knicks, Pitino hasn't brought a team into the Garden since taking Kentucky there in 1993. The Louisville coach says tonight's game in the historic arena will be a special treat for himself and his team.
"Any time you play in Madison Square Garden it's special," Pitino said. "We have a tall order to get a victory on the road. That's the most important thing right now."