Pitino sees good signs from Cards

Since losing to UNLV New Year's Eve, No. 23 Louisville (11-3, 2-0) has rolled off three straight wins, including back-to-back Big East road wins over South Florida and No. 18 Villanova. Monday night, Louisville returns home to face No. 13 Notre Dame.

"We're a team on the improve," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Our defense has always been there for us and I think our ability to learn and our attitude is improving. We see a lot of good signs of maturity developing with this basketball team."

Since falling to UNLV 56-55, Louisville has begun to shows solid signs of improvement. They have rebounded from the loss to the Rebels by beating Kentucky, USF and Villanova – the last two on the road.

On Saturday, Terrence Williams made a driving layup in traffic in the finals seconds to propel Louisville to a 61-60 win at Villanova. That victory improved the Cardinals Big East record to 2-0 – it's best league start since moving from C-USA in 2006.

Terrence Williams and the Cards are 2-0 in
league play with Notre Dame visiting
on Monday.

Notre Dame, with a 3-1 league record, knocked off Seton Hall 88-79 Saturday at home. The Irish have won six of their last seven games coming into their game against UofL. The Cardinals won last year's meeting in Louisville 90-85.

Pitino didn't sound worried about his team's quick turnaround.

"I think it's only difficult when the other team has more preparation time but we're both in the same boat," Pitino said.

One of the nation's top offensive teams (the Irish average 82 ppg), Notre Dame leads the Big East in scoring, assists and three-pointers.

"Notre Dame has a type of system that you've really got to prepare for the players because they're so explosive at the offensive end," Pitino said. "The strength of their team is they have four seniors, two juniors – they're not going to beat themselves. They make free throws, they make great shots."

The Irish feature a balanced offensive attack, led by 2008 Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody. Harangody, who leads the Irish in scoring at 24 points per game, is one of four double-figure scorers in Notre Dame's starting lineup. Guard Kyle McAlarney averages 16.5 points and has made 62 three's this season. Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers both average 11 points.

"I just think you play hard every possession defensively trying to stop their scheme of what they're trying to do," Pitino said.

Louisville figures to have their work cut out trying to slow down the 6'8, 255-pound Harangody, who had 40 points and 12 boards against Louisville last season.

"He's very difficult to stop because he's an excellent passer and he scores against just about everyone," Pitino said. "He has very good offensive moves and he's very strong."

Freshman Samardo Samuels will be charged with defending Harangody in the post but he'll likely need help from reserves Terrence Jennings and George Goode. Jennings blocked four shots against Villanova, while Goode didn't play because of a leg injury.

"We're going to need all three of these guys," said Pitino. "George may have to play a few minutes as well."

Stopping Harangody inside isn't Louisville's only problem. The Irish are also dangerous from the three-point line as four players have made 20 or more three's this season. Notre Dame averages 9.2 made three-pointers per game with McAlarney leading the way.

"If they're on they are awful tough to beat," said Pitino.

If the Cards hope to keep pace with the high-scoring Irish, they'll need to shoot better than they did against Villanova. Louisville made just 3 of 25 three's and shot only 38.7 percent from the floor against the Wildcats. Pitino said his team took too many challenged shots – 11 by his count – against the Cats.

"We took a lot of challenged shots and we were 3 for 11," Pitino said. "We want to be under six challenged shots. We did it against Kentucky and South Florida. It's a very lofty goal."

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

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