Neutral site games seem to have Louisville stuck in neutral.
Maybe it's the half-filled arenas that buzz with all the energy of a quiet Sunday morning brunch. Maybe it's the unfamiliar surroundings. Maybe it's the lack of hostility and an "us against the world" mentality that a true road game provides.
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Whatever the reasons, the ninth-ranked Cardinals are just 1-5 in their last six regular-season neutral-site contests, including a 68-54 meltdown in Nashville against Western Kentucky last month. The loss knocked Louisville briefly out of the Top 10 and gave the Cardinals a cold dash of reality after reading perhaps a little too much of their own pre-season hype.
In the SEC-Big East Invitational, Louisville (6-1) will get a chance to show what it's learned. The Cardinals will play Mississippi (7-3) on Thursday in a double-header that also features Mississippi State (7-3) and the Bearcats (7-2) in Cincinnati.
Louisville then hops on a plane and heads west for another neutral-site test against Minnesota (9-0) in Phoenix on Saturday.
The Cardinals aren't planning to make the flight home next week a miserable one, and they say they don't plan to duplicate the mistakes they made in Nashville.
"(We've got to) play every second like it's your last and don't let the name on your jersey or the (ranking) by your name on TV determine if you're going to win the game," forward Terrence Williams said. "Win the game by executing the plays, knowing the scouting report and listen to your coach."
Four easy wins inside the noisy comfort of Freedom Hall followed the Western loss, but the Cardinals feel they still have a long way to go to prove themselves. Playing well over the next three days could help.
"Our players know now, I can see the excitement in their eyes," Coach Rick Pitino said. "This is the SEC-Big East challenge. We lost two last night, so we all realize how important these games are and understanding the competition picks up and the level of play picks up."
Coach back with Bulldogs
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is out of a hospital and will coach the Bulldogs against Cincinnati on Thursday.
Stansbury was hospitalized Sunday night complaining of headaches and flu-like symptoms. He was diagnosed on Tuesday with a viral infection that was treated with steroids. He was released Wednesday morning.
Stansbury planned to travel to Cincinnati with the team on Wednesday afternoon.