Inside Cardinal basketball: Weekly notebook

Rick Pitino

The University of Louisville men's basketball team will face Missouri Kansas City on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. Here's a look at a few notes surrounding the program heading into the contest.

PITINO TARGETS DIENG'S RETURN

University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino could have a special present for his son, Richard, when his Florida International team plays the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on Dec. 19.

The return of center Gorgui Dieng.

Dieng, who is sidelined with a broken left wrist, was said to be out four-to-six weeks but Rick Pitino said he's now targeting that game for his return.

"My optimism," Pitino said. "I think it's important to get two games under your belt before the Kentucky game (Dec. 29).

"I don't want to throw someone into that environment and not have played a couple of games (before the UK game)."

Dieng has missed three games and Pitino said he started "getting back into shape," this week after 10 days of sitting out.

Dieng was averaging 8.2 points and 8.0 rebounds a game.

NUNEZ STILL SIDELINED

Sophomore Angel Nunez hasn't played a game this season after suffering a concussion during a practice. Pitino said he was hit in the back of the head.

Nunez is still suffering from concussion symptoms, including headaches and sensitivity to light.

"(Trainer) Fred (Hina) said it's the worst concussion ever witness," Pitino said. "Not hit, but in terms of the results and what he's going through. He's never seen anything like it. I'd be surprised if gets back on the court before month."

Pitino said Nunez tried to ride a bike this week and "had to stop nine minutes into it. He still has bad headaches."

PITINO HOPING FOR BETTER HOME SHOWING

The Cardinals had their best showing of the season on Tuesday, a blowout of the College of Charleston on the road.

U of L is 4-0 at home but Pitino said he's hoping his team will begin to play a little better at the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals face Missouri Kansas City at 2.

"We want to start playing some sound ball at home as well," he said. "It's true of a lot of people, they lose their focus at home. They're on edge on the road. They know they have to pay attention to scouting reports and the little things."

Pitino suggested the team would have played Illinois State better on the road. The Cardinals trailed much of that game last week at home before puling out a 69-66 victory with a late run.

"A lot of people misconstrue it as not being ready or taking them lightly," he said. "But they're not. They're just not on edge that they can be knocked out. And when you go on the road, you're totally on edge. You're comfortable at home, and you can't be comfortable in today's world, you really can't.

DONATE TOYS AT THE GAME

Fans heading to the game on Saturday can donate new toys that will be then donated to Kosair Children's Hospital. The toys can be for any age or gender will be collected in the lobby of the KFC Yum! Center.

The collection is associated with U of L Athletics' CardsCARE program and Kyle's Korner for Kids, the community outreach established last year by former Cardinals' forward Kyle Kuric. A similar collection had over 2,000 toys last year.

"We are encouraging all of our fans to bring toys," Pitino said. "Kyle's Drive for Christmas is a worthy cause. It's something we can all feel really good about."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Pitino was asked when the media ban for Chane Behanan would end. He had originally said Behanan was banned for the first semester, but the media was questioning when the ban would end.

"When the second semester starts," Pitino said with a smile. "As a mater of fact, I am enjoying him not speaking so much, I may put it the whole year."

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