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    Photo courtesy University of Louisville Men’s Basketball Facebook Page
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    Chris Jones will be back - although he won’t start - for the University of Louisville men’s basketball team in its game - one coach Rick Pitino calls “the most important” of the season - against Miami (Fla.).

    The Cardinals (20-6 overall, 8-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), who are No. 12 in both national polls, host the Hurricanes (17-9, 7-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be televised on ESPN.

    Jones, a 5-foot-10 senior point guard who was suspended for violation of team rules, returns to uniform after missing UofL’s 69-59 loss at Syracuse on Wednesday night. The Cards missed Jones’ defense and play-making abilities in their third loss in four games.

    “Chris knows how disappointed I am he missed the game,” Pitino said at his Friday press conference. “I said, ‘You cost your team a victory.’ Not saying we would have definitely won if he was there, but he knows how I feel and he’s very disappointed as well because he wanted to make that trip. We’ve got to move on now I said, ‘You can’t do anything to erase your mistake, but what you can do is play harder and better.’ He said, ‘Coach, don’t you think I play really hard?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know if anybody plays harder than you, but now you’ve got to go beyond it because we’ve got five games remaining and we could lose all five if we don’t start to play great defense, so you’ve got to pick it up.”

    Louisville enters Saturday’s game tied for fourth (with North Carolina and Syracuse) in the ACC, while Miami sits alone in seventh.

    “There are a lot of big games that come into play when you’re in a league like the ACC, but by far this game has the most significance to us at this time,” Pitino said. “It’s probably the most important game that’s come in here this year with more significance than just an outstanding opponent. Because if you look at the standings, if our goal is to finish in the top four and get a double bye, we (rank) with three other teams, including Miami, record-wise. So we need a win desperately at this point. There’s a lot at stake for both teams and certainly we need a very loud, very enthusiastic crowd, we need great defense from our team, (we) need a lot of emotion.”

    The Cards beat the Hurricanes 63-55 on Feb. 3 behind 22 points from Terry Rozier, 18 from Montrezl Harrell and 16 from Jones.

    Miami is led by 6-foot-5 junior guard Sheldon McClellan (14.8 pp, 4.9 rpg), 5-11 junior guard Angel Rodriguez (12.6 ppg, 4.3 apg), 5-11 sophomore guard Manu Lecomte (8.3 ppg), 7-0 junior center Tonye Jekiri (8.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg), 6-2 freshman guard Deandre Burnett (7.6 ppg) and 6-6 sophomore guard Davon Reed (7.4 ppg).

    The Hurricanes are coming off an 89-86 double-overtime win at Boston College on Monday night, then beat visiting Virginia Tech 76-52 on Wednesday night. McClellan scored a game-high 21 points and Jekiri added 15 points and 15 rebounds against the Hokies.

    UofL next plays at Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. Monday night.

    Photo courtesy University of Louisville Men’s Basketball Facebook Page

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