Louisville coach Rick Pitino is just one victory away from winning his 500th collegiate game. His team is not doing him any favors to help reach that milestone.
Already with a depleted front line, the 22nd-ranked Cardinals will be without suspended forward Derrick Caracter on Saturday as Pitino makes his second attempt at win No. 500 in a matchup against Purdue in the John Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis.
Caracter is second on Louisville (5-2) in scoring with 13.4 points and also averages 7.4 rebounds per game, but he’s been suspended indefinitely for a curfew violation.
Pitino and Caracter have had a series of run-ins since the sophomore arrived last season, and Pitino wanted to suspend him before last Saturday’s 70-65 loss to Dayton.
The players wanted Caracter to play against the Flyers, and Pitino allowed it as long as Caracter signed a contract, which included a curfew - “the easiest thing on the contract,” Pitino said.
Caracter broke curfew the same night, and the team voted on the suspension.
“The sad thing about it all is he knows how much the team went to bat for him,” Pitino said. “And he also knows how much he’s needed, already being short-handed.”
The Cardinals’ front line is already without injured starters David Padgett (broken knee) and Juan Palacios (torn cartilage in right knee), leaving senior center Terrance Farley—who is averaging just 2.1 points—to shoulder the load in the paint.
Pitino may also have sophomore forward Earl Clark, who leads the team in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (11.9), play more in the post.
Josh Chichester, a 6-foot-8 freshman from the football team, joined the Cardinals on Wednesday. He is not expected to play in this game.
“We’ve got to get guys now learning new positions, go through as if it’s October 15th again,” Pitino said.
The Cardinals are also trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Flyers.
Louisville turned the ball over 15 times, had only nine assists and shot just 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from 3-point range. The loss not only prevented Pitino from becoming the 17th active coach to reach 500 wins, it also knocked the Cardinals down eight spots in the latest AP rankings.
Clark had 15 points and 12 rebounds last Saturday for his sixth double-double of the season, while Caracter had 16 points and seven boards. Forward Terrence Williams had 11 points and nine rebounds, and is averaging 13.5 points and 8.3 boards in his last four games.
This will be the Cardinals’ first game away from Louisville since they split their two contests in the Las Vegas Invitational Nov. 23-24.
The Cardinals and the Boilermakers (5-2) have not met since an 86-84 Purdue victory in the Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis on Nov. 30, 2002. The Boilermakers are 10-5 all-time against Louisville.
Purdue is coming off a 73-63 loss to Missouri last Saturday in which it led by 10 points with 7:48 left in regulation before the Tigers closed the game on a 24-4 run.
“We just have to learn how to finish games,” sophomore guard Keaton Grant said. “That’s definitely the biggest thing that we haven’t learned yet.”
Grant had 13 points, while freshman E’Twaun Moore finished with a game-high 15.
Scott Martin, who leads the Boilermakers with 11.9 points per game, was held to a season-low six before fouling out with 4:05 remaining.
Purdue was 3-for-19 from 3-point range against Missouri after shooting 10-for-24 from beyond the arc in its 70-57 win over Ball State on Dec. 5.
The Boilermakers may be in trouble if they can’t find their shooting touch against the Cardinals, who are seventh in the nation in 3-point defense (26.4 percent) and ninth in opponents’ field-goal shooting (36.3).