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January 13, 2012

Chris Smith: Team meeting put Cards back on track




University of Louisville senior guard and tri-captain Chris Smith says he believes a players-only meeting following Tuesday's embarrassing 90-59 walloping by Providence has put the free-falling Cardinals (13-4) back on the right track.

We'll see if he's right, beginning with Saturday's Big East Conference game against conference whipping boy DePaul (10-6, 1-3) at 4 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center.

Chris and the other two captains, senior forward Kyle Kuric and junior guard Peyton Siva called the team meeting Wednesday. Chris said it lasted about an hour and everyone got his turn to speak, even Luke Hancock, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Georgia Tech.

"We pretty much brought our heads together and pretty much resolved the problem," Chris said. "The problem was just pretty much a lack of confidence in each other and having each other's backs. And when you feel somebody doesn't have your back, you're not going to go to bat for them. We had a great practice yesterday, everybody jelled together and we're pretty much going to be back on track now.

"Everybody said their piece, their part, and I'd say we had one of our best practices of the year. We said our positives and negatives, then it was, okay, we have to talk about what we have to do to win games."

Asked what he felt the main message was, Chris said: "Stay positive, it's a long season. That's pretty much what we can do right now, stay positive, stay together and try to get back to winning and having fun."

The Blue Demons appear to be the ideal medicine for what ails UofL. DePaul is 3-56 in conference road games, has lost seven in a row to UofL, favors the same up-tempo style as the Cards and is last in the league in field goal defense (47.5 percent).

All of which could add up to a happy homecoming for the Cards, even though they will be without Kuric, who suffered a sprained ankle in practice Thursday. Kuric is UofL's leading scorer at 13.0 points per game and is the only Card averaging in double figures (15.0) in the four Big East games. He's also the team's primary 3-point shooting threat (31-88, 35.2 percent). UofL coach Rick Pitino declined to say who would start in place of Kuric, who is one of just two players who have opened every game this season -- center Gorgui Dieng is the other.

After a 12-0 start, UofL has lost four of its last five games, including the last two at home against Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Cards haven't dropped three straight at home since a four-game skid in 2000-01 under coach Denny Crum.

DePaul's poor defense should help UofL solve one of its biggest problems -- its stagnant offense. The Cards are averaging just 65.4 points on 39.4 percent shooting in their last five games -- 30.2 percent from 3-point range.

"I feel like we are starting to develop a second wind," Chris Smith said. "We work very hard in practice and individual instruction and that's our time to get better. We still have a lot in the tank, it's just that sometimes when you lose games you get frustrated and you have chemistry problems, but then the second wind kicks in."


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