Palacios re-gaining confidence

Since returning from a pre-season knee injury last month, Juan Palacios has been gradually returning to form. In his first four games this season, Palacios averaged a meager 3 points, while failing to connect from long-range. But Saturday's 34 minute, 17-point performance against Kentucky has Palacios' confidence on the rise.

Since returning from a pre-season knee injury last month, Juan Palacios has been making steady progress on the court.

In his first four games this season, Palacios made gradual progress. In those initial games, he averaged a meager 3 points and failed to connect from three-point range.

But Palacios may have enjoyed a breakout performance last Saturday in Louisville's 89-74 win over Kentucky. With starting forward Earl Clark suspended for the game, the 6'8 Palacios stepped in and came up big, producing a season-high 17 points, six rebounds and four assists to earn CBS Player of the Game honors.

Juan Palacios is coming off a break-out
17 point, six rebound, four assist
performance against Kentucky.

Oh, and he also found his range from deep, nailing a three-point dagger during Louisville's big second half run to put the game out of reach.

"Coming off the injury and having a good game against Kentucky it just kind of gives me a little more confidence," Palacios said.

Though he still isn't quite back to his old self, Palacios does feel that – like his team – he's improving each and every day.

"I'm (still) not 100 percent," Palacios said. "I'm still not explosive. I'm probably about 80 percent. I still don't feel fast or in the right shape but I'm trying to get there every day. I feel like I have a long way to go but I'm improving every day."

Earl Clark is expected to be back in the starting lineup Thursday night when Bob Huggins brings his West Virginia Mountaineers into Freedom Hall for a key Big East matchup. Palacios knows West Virginia won't be an easy win.

He remembers his first game against the Mountaineers when the Cardinals overcame a 20 point deficit in the NCAA Regional Final to advance to the 2005 Final Four. He also remembers a hard-fought 68-64 loss in Morgantown in February 2006. Palacios missed last season's 82-71 thrilling over-time win in the Big East Tournament due to injury.

West Virginia enters tomorrow's showdown with an 11-3 mark and spent two weeks ranked in the Top 25 before losing to Oklahoma 88-82 in double-overtime.

"It has never been easy against them," Palacios said. "It's going to be another war."

With the experienced Palacios and senior captain David Padgett back in the lineup, the Cardinals on-court basketball IQ is improving. Against Kentucky, the Cardinals looked like they started to figure some things out about themselves. Palacios' return to action is a big reason for that.

"I feel like the team is improving every day," Palacios said. "Now that everybody is healthy and playing together everybody is getting to know each other and how we each want to play and that's helping the team. When we pass the ball and advance it up the court and play solid defense we seem to do very well."

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