The Cardinals, who have won six of their last seven games, beat Providence 92-70 on the road Wednesday night for their second straight conference win. Louisville made 12 three-pointers and had a 23-2 advantage on second chance points in the win over the Friars.
Now, the Cardinals are prepared to take on St. John's. The Red Storm won 9 of their first 10 games this season, but have lost three of the past four games. 0-2 in Big East action, the Friars lost to Georgetown Dec. 31 and against Providence Jan. 3.
"St. John's hasn't been healthy in a while but they could be the healthiest they've been with Anthony Mason possibly coming back and they're point guard coming back," Rick Pitino said. "We've had some hard fought battles with St. John's. Last year neither team could score against the other teams defense. They're very physical. Typical of the [Big East]."
Louisville beat St. John's last season 61-47 at Madison Square Garden behind Jerry Smith's 21 points. The Red Storm are expected to return point guard Malik Booth to their lineup and could get some minutes from 6'9 forward Anthony Mason.
"They gave Duke all they could handle," Pitino said. "It was a war most of the game. They play very good defense and have very good players and athletes. They have a good front court, good back court players and can shoot it. This is one of the better shooting St. John's teams we've played."
Louisville got outstanding play from point guard Edgar Sosa in the win over Providence. Sosa scored 26 points, hit 5 of 10 three's, hauled down five boards and handed out four assists.
"I thought he led the team well on the fast break, and played good defense," Pitino said. "And he finally rebounded the ball."
Sosa's back court partner, Jerry Smith, broke out of his shooting slump. Smith made 6 of 11 shots, including 2 of 6 three-points to score 14 points against Providence.
"He's playing good basketball," Pitino. "Even when he wasn't shooting good he was playing good basketball. I think the back court is playing well and I think Peyton Siva is going to come around too. I think Peyton is finally over the hump and nearly 100 percent with his wrist."
Now back in school, Pitino said his team will benefit from the extra work over the holiday break.
"We got better," Pitino said. "We're really working hard on our big's passing, their footwork and offensive moves. We spent a lot of time on that and it will pay off."
Pitino also said he's been pleased with Terrence Jennings progress since returning from a one-game suspension last month. Jennings played 17 minutes against Providence, posting four points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
"Terrence Jennings is working much harder in practice and he's playing better," Pitino said. "When St. John's puts their big guy in off the bench I think there's room to play both big guys together. I'm looking for those guys to get better fundamentally, with their basketball skills – with their footwork, passing and ball handling. TJ is improving at rapid pace right now, which is good to see."
Louisville and St. John's tip-off at 12 p.m. Saturday.
GAME FACTS - Louisville (11-4, 2-0) vs. St. John's (10-4, 0-2)
Date: Saturday, Jan. 9
Time: 12:04 p.m. ET
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (analyst)
SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Ch. 122
Next U of L Game: Jan. 11 vs. Villanova, 7:02 p.m. ET (ESPN Big Monday)