No. 19 Louisville seeks improvement vs. SIU

After a single-digit win over 0-4 Omaha on Friday, No. 19 Louisville is facing a big step up in competition Tuesday night when Southern Illinois visits the KFC Yum! Center.

Louisville coach David Padgett said the Cardinals (2-0) must play better than they did last Friday. The Salukis (2-0) brought three starters and a host of role players back from last season's third-place Missouri Valley Conference team.

"Our first two games were a test -- a test in different ways, but a test nonetheless, but this game (Tuesday) is going to be the biggest test we have faced so far, without a doubt," Padgett said. "Any time you face a team that has 10 of their 12 players as juniors or seniors, you know you are going to be in for a war."

Louisville looked good at times against its first two foes but played so poorly in the second half against Omaha that Padgett called it "embarrassing." That was a bold charge from an interim, 32-year-old coach, but Padgett said his team didn't take his critique the wrong way.

"Oh, they know," Padgett said. "They are all experienced enough to know when they didn't play well. We made a cut-up of all the bad plays and reviewed the film. I asked them if they thought I was being too harsh with my criticism and none of them said 'yes,' so they know."

These two teams are fairly familiar with each other. Louisville holds a 4-2 series lead. The Cardinals walloped the Salukis 74-51 last December, jumping out to a big early lead.

SIU coach Barry Hinson said, "Well, I hope it starts better than it did last year because the shock and awe hit us and we were down 14 to nothing to start the game. We have a game plan, but I am not going to be too open about what we are going to do defensively and what we are going to try to do offensively."

Padgett is hoping his team has a start like the one last year's team delivered against SIU.

"I know we beat them last year, but they are much improved from last year," Padgett said. "They have a couple of new guys who are helping them. It is going to be a good test. It is going to be a very, very good test for us."

Hinson said Louisville's incredible length -- the Cardinals start a lineup that is 6-foot-1 and 6-6 at guard, 6-7 and 6-11 at the forwards with a 7-foot center -- is a major issue.

"We all know what the elephant in the room is -- we have to handle their length, and we have to handle their athleticism," Hinson said. "We have to be able to make really good decisions offensively."

The Salukis will have to contend with the Cardinals without their top big man, Thik Bol. The SIU senior had knee surgery on Nov. 3 and is out six weeks.

"Anybody that wants to have a chance against these guys has to rebound and has to handle their length on the offensive end," Hinson said of the Cardinals.

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