Chane Behanan wasn't supposed to be seen again for another week or so due to a leg injury, but instead Louisville's sophomore forward will play against South Florida (9-5, 0-2) in Saturday afternoon's Big East Conference game in the KFC Yum! Center (4:04 tipoff).
Behanan suffered an ankle sprain in practice earlier this week and missed Wednesday's 73-58 win at Seton Hall, the ninth victory in a row for the No. 3/4 Cardinals (14-1, 2-0).
"He told our assistant coaches he's ready to play and that was news to me," UofL coach Rick Pitino said Friday afternoon. "With Chane you never know. It's actually not his sprained ankle that's bothering him right now. In doing the x-ray they found a (bone) spur and that's where he's getting the pain. He says he can play, so I'm going to take him at his word. He may not start, but he will play."
The Cards fared well against Seton Hall without Behanan -- who is averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds -- thanks in large part to Montezl Harrell and Gorgui Dieng . Dieng posted his second consecutive double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, both season highs. Harrell, starting in place of Behanan, equaled his career high with 14 points and also had three rebounds.
Those two helped offset a sub-par night by guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith , who combined to hit just 4-of-17 shots.
"I thought Montrezl did a very good job." Pitino said. "I think the guards set him up very well. I still don't think he grabbed as many rebounds as he should for someone his length, but he is a freshman and I couldn't be any more pleased as a freshman with his play."
USF upset Louisville in the Yum! Center last year with its deliberate style and good defense, limiting the Cards to 34 percent shooting in a 58-51 victory. And the Bulls are using a similar style this year. Their opponents have shot just 39 percent overall, including 28.6 from 3-point range. They're next-to-last in scoring in the conference at 63.9 ppg (Georgetown is last at 63.5), while their scoring defense of 59.9 ranks sixth.
"The key is to try and play fast, but not rush," Pitino says. "Don't go down and take bad shots, ill-advised shots, trying to play fast by shooting quickly, then they come down and milk the clock or grab an offensive rebound. The backboard controls a lot, taking high percentage shots controls a lot as far as your fate is concerned. You have to shoot a good percentage, but it's tough to shoot a good percentage because they're an excellent defensive team."
This will be the first of three quick Saturday-Monday turnarounds for UofL, which will travel to Connecticut for a Monday night game on ESPN (7 o'clock tip). The Huskies are 11-3 and 1-1 going into Saturday's game at No. 17/16 Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0).
"These Saturday-Monday games present a big challenge for all the teams playing in them, especially when you travel, and we've got a few," Pitino says. "There's little preparation time and as you get into the meat of your schedule you look at that more than anything else, which games do we have the least amount of preparation time."
Louisville's other Saturday-Monday combos are at Georgetown Jan. 26 and vs. Pittsburgh Jan. 28; and at Syracuse March 2, then vs. Cincinnati March 4.