Cards look for offense against Mountaineers

Louisville (16-3, 7-0) has won eight straight games and is the hottest team in the Big East. Saturday at noon, the Cardinals will take on another hot league team – West Virginia (15-5, 4-3) – at Freedom Hall.

It's been cold in Louisville this week, but the Cardinals and Mountaineers plan to heat things up Saturday afternoon.

Louisville has been red-hot on the court in recent weeks, but cold, wintery conditions this week have kept the Cardinals out of school and in the gym. A major ice storm, combined with a few inches of snow had the Cards eating and sleeping basketball the past few days.


"They've gotten a lot of sleep and a lot of rest and I'm sure they're enjoying it," said Pitino. "All they're doing is playing basketball, eating, sleeping and having fun. It's like winter break for them."

Louisville is coming off an 80-54 win over USF on Wednesday. Up 33-32 at halftime against the Bulls, UofL began the second half with a 22-3 run that effectively put the game out of reach. The Cardinals scored 47 points after the break and shot 51 percent from the floor. They'll need to continue their offensive ways in the next three games against West Virginia, UConn and St. John's.

"I think the next three games are challenges offensively because these are three of the better defensive teams in the league," Pitino said. "That doesn't mean we don't have to stop they're good players. We certainly do. These three defenses are all three of the better defenses in the league. They all pose different problems."

"West Virginia denies, fronts the post and takes you out of your offense. UConn is a great shot blocking team. And St. John's inch for inch, pound for pound might be the best ball-you-man defensive team."

The Mountaineers, who have won four of the last five games, including a 75-52 win over St. John's Wednesday, rank among the leaders nationally in three point field goal percentage defense (second, .266) and turnover margin (10th, +4.9).

"They're very aggressive with their rebounding, the way they deny and front the post and step up on any drive," Pitino said. "They smother any penetration into the lane but they recover very well. They're very long and very quick and (Huggins) does a great job teaching that. This team's defense is very similar to the way Villanova plays."

Pitino knows how his team will have to counter the Mountaineers strong defensive approach.

"(We've) got to create ball movement and player movement," Pitino said. "You can't take quick shots against West Virginia because good opportunities are good to come by. You've got to create movement and stay with your offense, take good shots and score with your defense."

The Cardinals made 11 of 24 three's against South Florida and should get quite a few looks from deep against Huggins' troops.

"Edgar is a good shooter, Jerry is a good shooter, T-Will is a good shooter and Earl is a good shooter," Pitino said. "We don't have any great shooters on the team but they're all good shooters. The key for them is to take open shots."

Alex Rouff, a 6-6 shooting guard, and Da'Sean Butler, a 6'7 forward, lead West Virginia in scoring. Ruoff averages 16.2 points, while Butler averages 17.4 points.

"Ruoff certainly is as tough a player as there is in the league to guard," Pitino said. "He does for them what T-Will does for us. He fills up the stat sheet."

Already one of the deepest teams in the Big East, Louisville got a little deeper this week with George Goode's return to the lineup. Goode split time with Terrence Jennings as the back up to starting center Samardo Samuels against USF and had four points and two rebounds in 7 minutes of action.

"We're hoping someday down the road George can play some power forward," Pitino said. "He can offensively he just can't guard anybody on the perimeter laterally. He's good defensively in the paint but he's very slow laterally."

Jennings continued his strong play in a reserve role against the Bulls, posting three points, four boards and two blocked shots in 11 minutes.

"We were very conservative with his (Goode) injury because TJ was playing so well," Pitino said. "He could have come back a little sooner."

Honor Roll

The Cards 1959 Final Four squad, the first of UofL's eight Final Four squads, will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game against WVU.

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