The Cardinals have played two true road games this season, losing at UNLV and Kentucky. Louisville fought hard Saturday but fell to third-ranked Kentucky 71-62 at Rupp Arena. UofL battled back from a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead midway through the second half, but couldn't stop John Wall and Patrick Patterson down the stretch.
"A loss is a loss," Rick Pitino said. "You walk away and try to get better. I thought we battled – I thought we battled at Vegas. I still think we've got to get healthy. Those kids [Siva and Knowles] have to get the tape off their hands because they're not giving me what we need defensively."
"It's not Rupp Arena but this will be a sold out Providence Civic Center," Pitino said. "It's a very strong home court advantage. This is a much bigger game than Kentucky. We've got to take care of business in the league. That's what we play for."
Louisville heads to Providence with a 10-4 record overall. The Cardinals are 1-0 in league play after knocking off South Florida last week at home. Where do the Cardinals stand heading into their Big East schedule?
"I don't know, I really don't," Pitino said. "The guys play hard and they're going to give it everything they've got every game. But I can't tell you what type of shape because I can't figure out this league."
"You've got to play well on the road and this team is getting better defensively," Pitino said. "That's very good for playing on the road. We played well in both road games but came away with a loss, but we did perform well in very difficult environments. There were nights [the past couple years] where we were in control [on the road], I don't think that's going to be the case anymore."
Pitino's formula for success on the road in the Big East? Solid team defense.
"We've got to get a group of guys collectively pulling together on defense," Pitino said.
Louisville has played better defense of late. The Cardinals have forced an average of 20 turnovers in their last six games, winning five of those contests. Louisville forced 18 turnovers against Kentucky and has out-rebounded 12 of their last 14 foes. Still, Pitino wants to see continued improvement defensively from his frontcourt, particularly starting center Samardo Samuels.
"We're not getting enough out of the 'five' defensively," Pitino said. "Defensively, Samardo has definitely got to pick it up. He's not doing the things a five needs to do on defense and we've talked about it. TJ did do it [vs. UK]. He stopped penetration and blocked shots."
Providence ranks 15th in the nation in scoring offense at 84 points per game. The Friars average more than 8 three-pointers per game and have three starters averaging more than 14 points per contest. Providence is coming off a win over St. John's.
"Providence is a team coming off 10 Big East wins and I think before the year is out they're going to have a better team than last year," Pitino said. "They have a very experienced backcourt and they play [Jamine] Peterson, who is a terrific frontcourt player. Marshawn Brooks is a heck of an athlete. So they're starting three seniors and one junior. So they have a lot of experience and they're capable of shooting the ball from any range. To prepare for Providence is probably one of the more difficult preparations of the year because they can hurt you at all five positions and can put five shooters on the floor at one time."
In the win over the Red Storm, Providence forced 23 turnovers and had 16 steals.
"They're a big steal team," Pitino said. "They're a lot like Marquette was in their heyday, they've got great spacing, they shoot it well and are great on the break."
GAME FACTS - Louisville (10-4, 1-0) vs. Providence (9-5, 1-1)
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 6
Time: 7:02 p.m. ET
Site: Dunkin' Donuts Center (12,600), Providence, R.I.
TV: BIG EAST Network (WHAS-TV, Ch. 11 in Louisville) will televise the game with Carter Blackburn (play-by-play) and LaPhonso Ellis (analyst)
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (analyst)
SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Ch. 153
Officials: Tim Higgins, Earl Walton, Pat Driscoll
Next U of L Game: Jan. 9 vs. St. John's, noon ET (BIG EAST Network/WHAS-TV)