Cats will have to slow down Garcia, Dean

December 15, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Based on what Florida coach Billy Donovan saw from Louisville guard Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia, Kentucky's perimeter players are going to be on the move a lot Saturday.

"They have incredible energy and stamina for backcourt people," said Donovan of Garcia and Dean. "Garcia will be as good as any guard we face all year. He's very explosive. He makes everyone around him better. He defends. He gets in the lane and gets to the free throw line. He can run and play all day long. With Dean, it's the same thing. They are a very good pair."

Garcia had a career-high five steals, tied a career high with eight rebounds and scored 19 points in Saturday's 74-70 win at Florida. Dean scored 22 points despite battling leg cramps as the Cardinals handed Florida only its third non-conference loss in its last 49 home games.

Donovan said the Cardinals beat his team thanks to scoring spurts to start each half and some poor late-game decisions by his players.


"We didn't make great decisions late, but that gets magnified because we lost," Donovan said. "The game for us was lost in the first four minutes of each half when we were outscored 23-8. We just had some lapses that cost us.

"We played well at times, but we also had moments where they exploited us defensively or on our offensive end they shot the gaps for steals. You can't have breakdowns like that against good teams."

Cards missing Johnson, George

Florida was able to exploit Louisville's inside game. The Gators outrebounded Louisville 41-26 and got to the free throw line 13 times in the first half without putting the Cardinals on the line.

Donovan says the Cardinals miss true freshman Brian Johnson, a player he also tried to recruit out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, and Otis George. Johnson is out for the season with a knee injury while George will probably miss at least two more weeks with a knee injury.

"They are a bit thin in the front court," Donovan said. "That is making them play (Juan) Palacios and (Ellis) Myles extended minutes. Their depth today is not what it was when they started the season. We had a lot of opportunities that we did not finish around the basket."

Kentucky was able to take advantage of Indiana's inside defense Saturday thanks to centers Shagari Alleyne and Randolph Morris, who combined for 21 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.

"We always believe you have to play inside-out first," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "If you establish a good inside game, it will enhance the perimeter game as well no matter who you are playing. We'll just see what adjustments we have to make against Louisville."

Lack of depth forces change

Donovan felt a lack of depth forced Louisville coach Rick Pitino to alter his standard aggressive full-court pressure.

"What Louisville did was give us soft pressure and then fall back into a zone," Donovan, an assistant at Kentucky under Pitino, said. "I thought we had some moments where we were careless. We had some bad possessions to start the second half. But I would say they are probably not playing up the floor and pressuring like coach Pitino's teams have. A lot of that has to do with Garcia, Dean, Myles and (Larry) O'Bannon having to play so many minutes.

"It's difficult to get guys to play that way for 36 minutes. Offensively, they are racing up and down the floor in transition and shooting 3's. But their defense is a lot more aggressive in the half court than it is full court."

Myles, Louisville's top rebounder at 9.5 per game, played 39 minutes at Florida. Garcia was on the floor 37 minutes and Dean, who had surgery in the offseason to repair a torn abdominal wall, played 34. O'Bannon, who averages 13 points per game, played 31.

"They are still going to try to push the ball and shoot 3's," Donovan said. "Coach Pitino's philosophy is if he can get a 3 and you pound it inside, that's still a good tradeoff. They are pushing it a lot harder on missed shots than makes."

A big advantage from 3-point range

Louisville was 10-for-23 from 3-point range at Florida and held the Gators to 4-for-22 shooting. The Cardinals are shooting almost 40 percent from 3-point range this season.

While Smith knows that will be a problem for his team, he's more worried about another test - the final exams his players are taking this week.

"It's an adjustment, especially for the younger players," Smith said. "We have four freshmen playing a lot. This is the first time they have gone through this. This is different and then to play a game of this caliber at the end of the week is a real test mentally for them."

Kentucky assistant coach Reggie Hanson, a former UK player, thinks not having a game until Saturday helps.

"The guys are doing a lot of studying and practice times are broken up a little bit," Hanson said. "But the biggest key is that we don't have a game until Saturday. We have a full week to just focus on Louisville. That's the big thing."

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