Pitino wants better focus against Morehead

One of the most anticipated basketball seasons in Louisville history tips-off Saturday evening against Morehead State (0-3) in the first round of the Billy Minardi Classic. As the 2008-09 season starts, Rick Pitino is looking for better focus from his third-ranked Cardinals.

After two exhibition games against Georgetown (KY) College and Northern Kentucky, Louisville is ready to get the season started. Though he's seen his team make positive strides during the preseason, Pitino wants to see more focus from his returning veterans.

"I'm having a very difficult time gauging this basketball team," said Pitino. "They're not as focused as I'd like to see from a veteran group. I don't think they truly understand how tough the schedule and competition is going to be. I don't think they're the most focused group – they're a fun group to coach. I'm hoping they just need games."

Pitino will begin to find that answer Saturday evening against the Eagles.

"I don't know where we are," Pitino said. "It's tough to tell when you're playing against each other every day. This is the most physically talented Louisville team I've had. That doesn't mean they're as good as the 2005 team but this is a more physically talented team in terms of their athleticism."

Williams will return to the lineup against
Morehead State.

Defense and rebounding will be two areas Pitino will watch closely on opening weekend. The Cardinals will play the winner of the South Alabama/Florida A&M game Sunday.

"We spend a lot of time trying to communicate on defense," said Pitino. "When you play fast more fundamentals are needed than to play slow because you're never tired. That's the one thing we've been working on."

Pitino also wants to see his team rebound better. Though Louisville beat NKU on the boards two weeks ago in their final exhibition tune-up, the Cardinals were out-rebounded by Georgetown by nine in their first exhibition. It should be pointed out that Louisville's second-leading returning rebounder – small forward Terrence Williams – didn't play in either contest.

"Rebounding seems to be a weakness from our two exhibition games but we'll see when it's for real because we didn't have Terrence (Williams)," Pitino said. "He's a very good rebounder. So we'll see how that plays out."

Pitino believes a healthy Williams will help the Cards on the defensive glass. But the Louisville coach wants to see freshman center Samardo Samuels make major strides in the rebounding department. Samuels had just nine rebounds in UofL's two exhibition games.

"That's Samardo's weakness..defensive rebounding," Pitino said. "Rebounding is crucial for NBA prospects. Maybe he doesn't explode to the basketball or react quick enough."

Williams will be back in the starting lineup against Morehead. Williams was out for a few weeks during the preseason after having knee surgery to repair torn meniscus.

"At night my knee will get stiff but when I start playing I feel 100 percent," Williams said. "I felt before I came back I was 100 percent. It only hurts and throbs at night when I'm sitting around. I was 100 percent two weeks ago. In the game I'll be 200 percent."

With two games in two days, Pitino will likely turn to his deep and talented bench often against the Eagles.

"We can go 10 or 11 deep. Whether we will or not remains to be seen," said Pitino. "When you play back to back games it's beneficial to use your bench. But our guys are in pretty good shape. We're not going to get tired. A game is not going to wear them out."

Morehead comes into the game winless in three games this season. The Eagles lost to Louisiana-Monroe 56-54, and were beaten soundly by Vanderbilt (74-48) and Drake (86-70). Louisville beat Morehead State 73-49 last year.

"Morehead…you can't look at their record" said Pitino. "They've played three tough games. They're not going to be intimidated. We know what they're all about. They've given us some trouble in the past. We're interested in stopping their strengths but I want to see how good we are defensively. That's going to be my gauge where we're at."

The Cardinals held Georgetown to a 34.5 percent shooting from the floor, but allowed NKU to shoot 47 percent, including 12 of 28 (42.9 percent) from the three-point stripe.

"I know where we're at offensively. We're a pretty good offensive basketball team," Pitino said. "In the last few games we've done a good job getting the other team to take a difficult shots but we've given the rebound back. That's something you can't do. You can't work that hard and let the other team get a second shot at you."

Probable Starting Lineups

F 1 Terrence WILLIAMS 6-6 220 Sr. 11.1 7.2 Seattle, Wash.
F 5 Earl CLARK 6-9 225 Jr. 11.1 8.1 Plainfield, N.J.
C 24 Samardo SAMUELS 6-9 260 Fr. 24.3*10.7* Trelawny, Jamaica
G 34 Jerry SMITH 6-2 200 Jr. 10.7 3.6 Wauwatosa, Wisc.
G 33 Andre McGEE 5-10 180 Sr. 6.5 1.6 Moreno Valley, Calif.

Morehead State (0-3)
F 1 Maze STALLWORTH 6-4 205 Jr. 13.3 4.7 Elizabethtown, Ky.
F 33 Leon BUCHANAN 6-5 210 Sr. 11.7 4.7 Albany, Ga.
C 35 Kenneth FARIED 6-8 215 Jr. 8.3 7.7 Newark, N.J.
G 10 Robert MURRY 5-10185 Jr. 8.0 1.3 Cleveland, Ga.
G 22 Demonte HARPER 6-4 175 So. 4.7 3.7 Nashville, Tenn.

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