From the Locker Room: Juan Palacios

Juan Palacios's return has made a big impact for improving Louisville. Palacios spoke with's Josh Cook after the win over West Virginia Thursday and explained the team's new approach to defense.

Senior forward Juan Palacios is an elderstatesman on the University of Louisville men's basketball team. He is the lone holdover from the Cardinals' 2005 Final Four squad. He started 30 of 38 games that season and averaged 9.7 points per game. As a sophomore he started all 34 games and averaged 10.2 points per game. But Palacios has had a penchant for injury the last couple of seasons.

On the second day of practice this season he suffered a tear in the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee that did not require surgery on Oct. 13. In December he began limited individual instruction for two weeks before first practicing with the Cards for the first time on Dec. 20. He played in his first game of the season two days later against New Mexico State in the Billy Minardi Classic.

Palacios played 13, 16, 19 and 16 minutes in his first four games, coming off the bench, before getting the start against archrival Kentucky on Jan. 5. Palacios responded in a big way, tying for the team-high honors in scoring (17 points), rebounding (six) and assists (four) in the Cards' 89-75 victory. He got his second start Thursday night against West Virginia and scored six points – on 3 of 3 shooting – and grabbed five rebounds in only 14 minutes in the Cards' 63-54 win over the Mountaineers.

Q: What about your defense tonight?

A: "Very excited about the defense. We decided we were going to get excited, not about scoring points, but about stopping everybody on the other team and just playing together as one unit."

"We're just really proud of our defense, everybody is helping each other, we're communicating better, which is what's really helping the team."

Q: Was this a must-win tonight?

A: "Definitely. We had our mindset that after losing our first conference game we had to come out with a different attitude and just protect our house."

Q: Is this team starting to come together?

A: "Now that everybody's healthy we're getting to know each other, I feel like everybody's getting together."

"From the beginning of the season we said we had a good team and then we got a couple injuries and that's when everything started slowing down. But now that everybody's back together and we're getting to know each other, especially on defense communicating with each other, we can have a special team."

Q: What's it feel like to have everyone healthy, and playing?

A: "The feeling of everybody out there is just exciting, knowing that everybody's healthy, everybody's getting to know each other, how each other like to play and it just brings a good excitement to the team."

Q: What's it like to have David back?

A: "He's great. He gives us an inside presence and every time he puts the ball on the floor, then they double-team him, he gives the ball to the open man, which puts a lot of pressure on the guys on the other team because he can make the move or he can pass."

Q: How are you feeling, physically?

A: "I feel alright. I still have a long ways to go, but I feel improvements every day so I'm just happy for that."

Q: How does your knee feel?

A: "It's a little sore, but the doctors told me I'd have to deal with that through the whole season. There's going to be a couple days where it's going to feel great and a couple days where it's just going to be hurting, so I've just got to keep taking care of it with ice and stuff like that."

Q: How do you feel about your game right now?

A: "I feel okay. I feel like I have a lot of things to improve, but I went from thinking I wasn't going to play this year to playing again, so I'm just happy for that."

Q: Coach Pitino talks a lot about basketball IQ, do you think you guys displayed that tonight?

A: "Yeah definitely. I feel like we really focused on the scouting report. We really focused on what they were going to do and what we needed to do in order to just win, and that's what we did."

Q: What about Rutgers?

A: "It's going to be exciting. The Big East is such a strong conference if you can get a couple wins on the road that's going to be a big deal."

"Even though we've got two wins (in a row) we can't forget about the losses we had before, we've just got to keep playing hard, keep communicating and keep playing defense like we did tonight."

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