Louisville is starting to realize it cannot rely only on senior guard Taquan Dean.
The 11th-ranked Cardinals hope for another team effort Wednesday against the College of Charleston when they attempt to win their fourth straight Billy Minardi Classic at Freedom Hall.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino established before the season that Dean—who is averaging 18.4 points but shooting just 39.1 percent from the field—will be the team’s offensive focal point. But opponents playing the Cardinals (7-1) have spent so much time trying to slow Dean, who had just 10 points in Tuesday’s 76-68 win over Middle Tennessee State, that he is struggling.
“He’s on an island by himself he’s the one great player,” Pitino said of Dean. “(Opponents’) whole focus is stop Dean. He’s got to get used to that and play through it and not be concerned about it. We talked about it and we’re going to watch some film on that.”
Dean received help from Brandon Jenkins, who scored a career-high 20 points and junior guard Brad Gianiny, who made his first collegiate start and played 35 minutes of stellar defense but scored just two points from the free-throw line.
“I was just concerned about winning,” Pitino said when asked about starting Gianiny, whose lone two points came from the foul line. “They got a great lefty (Adam Vogelsberg). We had to stop him. We’ve got to win the game right now. The freshmen have got enough experience. I can’t concern myself with playing time - we’ve got to win.”
Louisville is 7-0 all-time in the Billy Minardi Classic, which was created by Pitino in memory of his brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The College of Charleston (4-3) advanced to the title game with a 90-73 victory Tuesday over Florida Atlantic in the other semifinal. Dontaye Draper scored 19 points and Drew Hall added 16 for the Cougars, who scored 28 points off 22 turnovers by Florida Atlantic.
The Cougars are playing just their second ranked opponent the last five seasons and first since a 75-49 defeat Jan. 3, 2004, at Wisconsin.
Charleston’s last win over a Top 25 team was a 66-64 upset Dec. 5, 1998, of then-No. 3 North Carolina.
Draper is averaging a team-high 17.1 points for the Cougars, who have two wins over non-Division I teams and are averaging 82.0 points.
This is the first meeting between the teams.