Cards hope Dean can play against Cincinnati

No. 22 Louisville (13-5, 1-4) hopes to snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday night against arch-rival Cincinnati (14-5, 3-2) at Freedom Hall. The Cards also hope to have Taquan Dean back in the lineup after the senior guard missed the past two games with an injury.

Will the Louisville Cardinals awaken from a midseason funk tonight against Cincinnati and finally snap their three-game losing streak?

Rick Pitino hopes so. The Louisville coach hasn't been sleeping well of late. His team is off to a horrible 1-4 start in the Big East. To make matters worse, the Cards are 0-3 at home in league games. Now, No. 22 Louisville hosts arch-rival Cincinnati.

While the Cardinals are coming off of a 71-58 loss to No. 1 Connecticut, the Bearcats won at Rutgers over the weekend. Still, Cincinnati and new coach Andy Kennedy have dropped three of their past four games.

"They're a veteran ball club, although they had an injury," Pitino said, referencing the season-ending injury to forward Armein Kirkland. "They're a lot like we were last year with about 7 or 8 basketball players. They've got four seniors and an unbelievable freshman point guard. He's absolutely terrific."

Despite the fact that his team hasn't enjoyed much success in the win column of late, Pitino likes how his team is working off the court.

"We're just not an overly talented basketball team right now, but we're doing the best we can do under the circumstances," Pitino said. "So we'll keep on working hard and hopefully some victories will come."

6-11 Louisville center David Padgett is coming off a career-high 27 point effort against UConn. Pitino said he expects the Bearcats to try to take Padgett out of the game.

"Cincinnati does a great job fronting the post and not letting the ball go inside," Pitino said. "They don't give you the low-post, and you've got to do other things to score offensively."

The Cardinals have struggled recently on offense. They haven't scored 60 points the past three games, and no one on the team besides Padgett is shooting better than 39 percent from the field in Big East play.

"I know we're not the best shooting team, but we're a better shooting team that," said Pitino. "Losing gets you tight on your jump shots. We've got to make our outside shots. We're not going to go very far if we don't."

The Cards shooting woes have amplified their shortcomings. That's a worrisome prospect for Pitino.

"Shooting cures a multitude of sins," Pitino said. "Right now, we're last or second to last in every offensive category in the Big East. That's very disturbing for me."

Pitino hopes his team can get a boost tonight from senior guard Taquan Dean, the teams leading three-point shooter. Dean has missed the Cardinals past two games with an ankle injury, but may play tonight against the Bearcats. Dean practiced Tuesday in hopes of playing tonight.

"I'm not sure he's definitely out," Pitino said Monday night. "We're at the point right now where we're a little desperate. He wants to go. We need a shot in the arm against a veteran Cincinnati team that's beaten Marquette on the road. I'm praying he can play tonight."

For Louisville, every Big East game has become like an elimination game. The Cards need to start winning not only to boost their chances at an NCAA bid, but also of making it to New York for the Big East Conference Tournament.

"We got to play (tonight) like it's an NCAA tournament game," Pitino said. "That's the way we have to play this game. We've got to get some W's right now or we're not going to make Madison Square Garden. We've just got to take it game by game. The guys are practicing great, and we're improving as a basketball team, but we've got to get a win."

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