Pitino using exhibition to get freshmen ready

Though it's definitely out of the norm, third-ranked Louisville will travel to Northern Kentucky University Saturday night for an exhibition game against the Division II Norse.

The Cardinals will be the first opponent for NKU in their new 9,400-seat Bank of Kentucky Center arena. NKU, who finished 21-8 last season and won GLVC East Division championship, is ranked fourth nationally in the Division II Bulletin preseason poll.

"Obviously you don't normally play a road game for an (exhibition) but it's very, very good for us," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

Pitino intends to use the contest to get experience for several newcomers who will play key roles for the Cardinals this season. Reginald Delk, a first year transfer from Mississippi State, and freshmen Samardo Samuels and Jared Swopshire are all listed as probable starters against NKU.

Jared Swopshire has a double-double in
UL's first exhibition.

"The exhibition season is to get the young players ready and get them experience and to work on the things you need to work on," Pitino said. "The exhibition season is not crucial to me, especially when you've got two weeks before your first game."

In Louisville's first exhibition against Georgetown (KY) College last weekend, the 6'8 Samuels led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points, while Swopshire added 14 points and 11 rebounds and made some critical free throws at the end to help UofL edge the Tigers 74-67.

"It's just another game to use as a barometer to measure where you've improved from the Georgetown game to this game to see where you've improved," Pitino said. "It's a gauge where your team is offensively and defensively."

While Louisville did a good job defensively against Georgetown, limiting the Tigers to 34.5 percent shooting from the field, including only 5 of 24 from three-point range, the Cardinals didn't rebound well in the contest as the Tigers won the battle on the boards 46-37. That's an area Pitino surely wants to see improvement against NKU, especially from guards Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith, who combined for only two rebounds in 42 minutes of action.

"We were pretty good defensively in that game and I liked the way we played on defense but our guards just did not do a good job of rebounding the basketball," Pitino said. "Any time you get a team to shoot long jump shots that are challenged you're defense is good but there are going to be long rebounds that go over the heads of your rebounders so you're guards have got to come back in there and rebound."

Pitino also wants to see his team improve on their free throw shooting after making just 33 of 50 against Georgetown.

"We didn't do a good job making our free throws and we didn't play well in transition at times," Pitino said. "It was about 50 percent of where we need to be."

While the Cards work out the kinks during the preseason, Pitino hopes that his teams last exhibition game will prove valuable for his talented five-man freshman class of Samuels, Swopshire, 6'10 center Terrence Jennings, 6'5 guard Kyle Kuric and 6'8 forward George Goode.

"I'm pleased with the entire freshmen class," Pitino said. "This is a great class and it's everything I would have hoped it would be. Unfortunately they're not ready to play in the Big East (yet). But it's the best freshman class I've had since I've been here.

"Their attitude is great, the talent is there and the desire is there with most guys. We've got a couple of throwback guys in Jared Swopshire and Kyle Kuric in terms of their work ethic, desire and willingness to put in extra time on their own. They're a throwback to what you had 10-15 years ago."

Louisville will open the regular season Nov. 22 against Morehead State. The Cardinals have won 24 of their last 25 exhibition contests.


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