Cards searching for team identity

Louisville (5-3) has lost two straight games and Rick Pitino says his Cardinals are searching to find a ‘team' identity. They'll get a chance to do that tonight when they host Marshall (5-2) at Freedom Hall.

Louisville (5-3) has lost two straight games and Rick Pitino says his Cardinals are searching to find a ‘team' identity. They'll get a chance to do that tonight when they host Marshall (5-2) at Freedom Hall.

The Cardinals enter tonight's game against the Thundering Herd struggling, having lost their last two games, including Saturday 67-59 setback to Purdue.

Derrick Caracter should return against
Marshall tonight.

"We're in the same situation that we were in last year. No different except the Big East is much tougher this year," Pitino said. "We've had a few slip ups now for one reason or another and we can't use injuries as the cause of it. It has something to do with it but we can't slip up anymore. We've got to (beat) Marshall."

What Pitino wants to see his team do is play like one. Louisville is playing hard defensively, no doubt. That's evidenced by a field goal defense that holds opponents under 36 percent shooting and ranks 10th nationally. But the Cards simply have to move, pass and shoot better on offense to find a winning formula.

"What we're trying to do is build a team identity," Pitino said. "We're not even running out for the starting lineup. We're just totally trying to focus on the word team because we have so many guys that are consumed with how they are playing that ultimately they strike out because of it. The only way this team can be good is to understand the value of team."

Pitino said his team sorely misses David Padgett because the 6'11 center's passing ability had a positive impact on the flow and cohesion of Louisville's offense. Without Padgett in the lineup, the Cardinals have struggled to score on offense, failing to top the 65 point mark in each of the last four games. Louisville biggest problem might be its negative assist-to-turnover ratio (102 assists-119 turnovers).

"We're practicing great right now. We've got a tremendous attitude," Pitino said. "Our guys really played hard against Purdue – they didn't play well because they didn't shoot well. They played hard defensively and gave it everything they could give and they were beaten by a better basketball team."

Pitino believes he's starting to see signs of improvement from his team in practice.

"We're improving right now," Pitino said. "We're getting better. I like what I see offensively and defensively. We're starting to move the ball better. I think Edgar (Sosa) is picking it up. I think Andre is playing well. I think our backcourt hasn't played particularly well but I think they are starting to play well."

In Marshall, Louisville will face an up-tempo opponent who likes to press and run. Marshall is coached by Donnie Jones, a former Florida assistant under Pitino protégé Billy Donovan.

"Marshall is a little bit different than the opponents we've seen of late," Pitino said. "They'll press like we press and they'll get up and down. So this is quite a contrast to what we've seen the last three games."

Louisville could get some help tonight inside with the expected return of 6'9 sophomore center Derrick Caracter. Caracter was suspended against Purdue.

The Cardinals could also get Juan Palacios back in the next week or two and with David Padgett making a seemingly strong recovery after fracturing his knee cap last month, Pitino is starting to see a light at the end of an injury-filled tunnel.

"We're starting to play better basketball," Pitino said. "I can tell in practice we're starting to execute. I'm hoping it's the same thing that happened to us last year. We're very optimistic now. I'm starting to see how antsy David Padgett is to get back. He'd be on the court now if Dr. Scott would give him the go-ahead. I can see the look in his eye, he wants back right now."

Pitino said Padgett would start playing basketball again by mid-January.

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