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February 2, 2013

Cards hope miracle not needed this time




It was an instant classic, a rousing comeback that immediately earned a place in Louisville basketball lore.

But nobody, least of all coach Rick Pitino and his players, want to see a repeat of the circumstances surrounding Marquette's last visit to the KFC Yum! Center when the No. 25 Golden Eagles (15-4, 6-1) return for Sunday's 2 p.m. Big East Conference contest.

As any fan of the No. 12/13 Cardinals (17-4, 5-3) knows, UofL trailed Marquette in that Jan. 15, 2011, game by 18 points, 65-47, heading into the final 5 1/2 minutes before mounting a furious, unlikely rally to pull out a stunning 71-70 victory.

"It was an unusual comeback, an incredible comeback," Pitino says. "You almost had to do everything right to come back from that margin in that time. We don't want to have to experience that again at home. We were very excited to be part of that victory, but we don't want to do it again."

Of course, the victory part would be fine, but the Cards can do without the nerve-wracking experience of needing a last-second shot such as Kyle Kuric's layin off a pass from Preston Knowles that capped the 2011 win.

"I hope it's not going to happen this time," said center Gorgui Dieng, who had eight points in a foul-laden 12 minutes as a freshman. "I hope we beat them pretty bad this year."

Marquette comes into Sunday's clash leading the Big East by a half-game over Syracuse by virtue of Pittsburgh's 65-55 win over the Orange (6-2) on Saturday, and Dieng says of the Golden Eagles, "I think they're the best team in our league."

"I appreciate him saying that," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "That's just because Gorgui likes me. I've known Gorgui for a long time, know all the people around Gorgui. I think he's a great kid. He's arguably the top center in the country. It's very rare that you find a starter who plays 35 minutes a game and averages more rebounds than points. He's the most efficient player in the Big East on the things I study."

Dieng, who is averaging 9.4 points and 10.0 rebounds, could have wound up in a Marquette uniform because Williams heavily recruited the 6-foot-11 Senegal native while he was attending Huntington (W. Va.) Prep School. Dieng narrowed his choices to Marquette, Colorado, Marshall and UofL before choosing the Cards.

UofL snapped a three-game losing skid with Monday's win over Pittsburgh, and Marquette guard Trent Lockett expects to get the Cards' best.

"We know they're coming at us," Lockett said. "They've lost three of their last four, but they got on the right track against Pitt. I'm sure Pitino hasn't been happy, so they're going to come out with great energy and we're going to have to match that."

NOTES--Marquette junior forward Davante Gardner, who was issued a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the South Florida game Monday, will not be suspended from the Louisville game. Big East officials reviewed tape of the foul, determined the referees made the correct call and ruled that Garnder will receive no addition penalty. Gardner doesn't start, but averages 12.7 ppg as the first sub off the bench. . .

The Golden Eagles' Big East record may be misleading. MU's combined league opponent record is 21-31 (.403), worst in the conference. Next is Pitt (.431), Syracuse (.433) and St. John's (.435). Only Marquette, UofL and Seton Hall have played the bottom four teams.


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