Louisville bracing for test from another No. 1 Print
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Sunday, 01 February 2009 11:12
NCAAB Headline News


 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -The math doesn't quite add up to A.J. Price.
Sure the Connecticut guard understands it might be the second-ranked Huskies' turn at No. 1 in the polls after putting together two easy wins over DePaul and Providence this week while top-ranked Duke lost.
What Price is trying to figure out is how the Huskies can be No. 1 in the country when they're not even No. 1 in the Big East. At least, not technically. That honor would go to No. 7 Louisville (17-3, 8-0), who along with No. 8 Marquette are the only unbeaten teams in arguably the nation's toughest conference.
``They're No. 1 in the Big East right now and we're right on their tail,'' Price said.
The streaking Huskies (20-1, 9-1) will get a chance to pull even with the Cardinals on Monday night in what could be the Big East Game of the Year, for this week anyway.
``If they win the game, they get some separation,'' Price said. ``On the other hand, if we win the game we can put ourselves in great position coming down the stretch. So that's what it boils down to. It's not about being No. 1.''
being the best team in the conference would be enough.
``If you tell me I'm going to beat Louisville by one point on Monday, I'll take that,'' said UConn coach Jim Calhoun.
Calhoun might be better off hoping for a laugher. The Cardinals hardly seem fazed when things get tight.
Six of Louisville's nine straight wins have come by 10 points or less, including a tougher than it had to be 69-63 victory over West Virginia on Saturday, a game the Cardinals led by 20 at halftime before needing a couple of big stops in the final minutes to avoid a major collapse.
``We'd like to take our lessons from a win rather than a loss,'' said coach Rick Pitino.
The lessons so far seem to be: don't panic, stay focused, don't get preoccupied with the number in front of the team's name, worry instead about the number on the scoreboard.
It's that kind of philosophy that's enabled the Cardinals to bounce back from a dismal nonconference schedule in which they lost three times and tumbled in the polls.
The memories of those early season stumbles are still fresh. And if any of the Cardinals get a little caught up in their recent run, it doesn't take long for senior captain Andre McGee to drop them down a peg or two.
``Our record can easily go south if we get bigheaded,'' McGee said.
The Cardinals have stayed humble enough to reel off nine straight victories and are attempting to become the first team in 16 years to knock off two different No. 1s in the same season. The Cardinals beat then top-ranked Pittsburgh on Jan. 17. Georgia Tech is the last school to do it, upsetting Duke and North Carolina in 1993.
Louisville, however, is hardly thinking about making a statement. Trying to find a way to stop 7-foot-3 UConn center Hasheem Thabeet is problem enough.
The junior posted the seventh triple-double in UConn history during a 94-61 romp over Providence on Saturday, scoring 15 points to go with 11 rebounds and 10 blocks.
With a roster featuring no one taller than 6-9, Pitino has found a creative way to prepare the Cardinals for shooting over Thabeet's massive wing span.
Former 7-foot recruit Clarence Holloway - who became a student assistant when a heart condition ended his playing career before it even began last season - has turned himself into Thabeet-lite, holding pads above his head while standing in the lane.
Finding an inch or two of daylight in the lane will be important, but not nearly as critical as making sure the Cardinals don't rush shots. McGee said there have been too many times during the last three seasons when Louisville has settled for a quick jumper rather than run the offense out of fear a better shot won't come along.
``They're so big that you think if you get an opening, you have to take it,'' he said. ``We know we can't do that.''
Instead the Cardinals will try to do stay patient and battle. It helps to be one of the few teams that can match UConn's depth. It's what allows Louisville to continually pressure the ball. Not that the Huskies are bothered by the idea of facing 94-feet of defense.
``We can beat their press,'' said Connecticut forward Stanley Robinson.
They'll have to if they want to have more than a tenuous grasp on No. 1.
---
Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.
 

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