While the Cards are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in most preseason polls, the team emphasized the importance of focusing on one game at a time and refusing to let the hype surrounding the squad get to anyoneâ€™s head.
â€œThereâ€™s the pressure but thatâ€™s a good pressure too,â€ said Center Gorgui Dieng.
â€œItâ€™s going to push us to work harder every single day because we know, we all understand, we have that big target on our backs. Any time we get in the gym we wonâ€™t let any second slide.â€
Though Dieng said the past is behind him, the Cards wonâ€™t forget how the season ended last year, with the 2012 National Champion and in-state rival Kentucky defeating Louisville in the Final Four. According to senior captain Peyton Siva, itâ€™s â€œunfinished businessâ€ the Cards are looking to avenge.
â€œ(My personal goal is) just win more games than last year and get one game further than last year,â€ Siva said. â€œWe got so far last year and itâ€™s my job to keep everybody level-headed and continue pushing them forward. And just try to get better.â€
Siva also discussed co-captain Luke Hancock, a transfer from George Mason who will make his debut as a Card this season. Siva jokingly called Hancock â€œthe mythâ€ due to Pitino touting him as one of the best players in college basketball despite no one having seen him play an official game as a Cardinal.
â€œItâ€™s humbling to be around these guys,â€ Hancock said of his chance to play with UofL. â€œWayne Blackshear is a McDonaldâ€™s All-American, Peyton, Chane (Behanan), some guys are supposed to be All-Americans this year so being a captain is no big deal in a star-studded cast like this.â€
While Hancock guided the Red Team to a 85-74 victory, Russ Smith led the White Team in scoring with 20 points, and added seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Kevin Ware and Montrezl Harrell also showed promise, finishing with 22 and 20 points, respectively, for the Red Team. Ware earned a double-double with 10 rebounds. On the white team, Christian Academy alum Tim Henderson scored 11 points and had two steals. Behanan and Dieng combined for 24 points and 21 rebounds.
â€œI was very impressed with what (the team) did tonight,â€ Pitino said during a press conference following the scrimmage. â€œTheyâ€™re obviously a very good defensive team. There arenâ€™t very many easy buckets around the rim. What we have to improve is cutting down on turnovers. And our weakness as a basketball team right now is fundamentals. … All those little things which are all teachable fundamentals thatâ€™ll make us a much better basketball team. But I was very impressed tonight.â€
The Cardinalsâ€™ final intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason will be held at 2 p.m Saturday, Oct. 27, at the KFC Yum! Center. Tickets are $10 for lower side and corner arena seats and $5 for end zone seats.
For more information, visit uoflsports.com.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune