CRAWFORD | Pitino to shuffle U of L lineup in wake of UK loss. B - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Pitino to shuffle U of L lineup in wake of UK loss. But how?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville fans began the day Monday still buzzing over the Cardinals eight-point loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. By the time U of L coach Rick Pitino was finished with a 10-minute interview with WHAS Radio's Terry Meiners, they were buzzing about something else. 

Pitino told Meiners that he'll shake up the lineup when Long Beach State visits the KFC Yum! Center Tuesday for the Cardinals' final game before beginning their first season of Atlantic Coast Conference play. 

The game, originally scheduled for 6:30 p.m. has been moved to 4 o'clock to avoid conflict with U of L's appearance in the Belk Bowl against Georgia. 

"We're going to start two new people," Pitino told Meiners, but wouldn't give specifics. "I'd rather not say." 

The coach did say the moves were with an eye toward offense. His team shot 26 percent in the 58-50 loss to Kentucky and dished out just one assist in 40 minutes. 

Pitino gave a great deal of credit for that to Kentucky's defense. 

"They're a great defensive team," Pitino said. "As Cal likes to say about us, they hold and they grab, they play very physical, the type of defense I really love to coach and love to see. The physical way they play defense is what made us shoot the low percentage. Now we did miss nine relatively easy shots, Wayne Blackshear's layup and a couple of in-and-outs that went against us, and what happens when you miss those is you get a little tight. But it was their defense." 

As a result, Pitino told Meiners, he's going to make some changes that he hopes will result in a little more offense. 

"We've got to get some high percentage shots in our offense," Pitino said. "Offensively our biggest weakness has been our passing, but in this game our biggest weakness was our screening. Our inside people did about as poor a job screening -- when you're playing against a very aggressive team you've got to screen them. It's like in football, if you have a great running game you've got to have a great blocking game. . . . We did a very poor job of screening in that game." 

So what will the changes be? Pitino wouldn't say, but it didn't stop Twitter from erupting with ideas and even suggestions. 

One of the changes figures to be Mangok Mathiang starting for freshman Chinanu Onuaku. Neither got much done offensively against UK, but Onuaku has been struggling for four or five straight games. Mathiang has experience and knows what Pitino wants when it comes to screening and movement. 

Fans seem to want freshman Anas Mahmoud to see more playing time, and he is offensively skilled, and a good passer. Kentucky probably wasn't a great matchup for him, but he likely has a chance to see more time moving forward. 

An outside guess? Pitino was ready to insert Matz Stockman a couple of games ago but the freshman from Norway sustained an injury during pregame layups and hasn't been on the court since. He has made progress in practice and has the kind of size that could make him an effective screener, if he understands what Pitino is looking for. 

The other lineup change is more intriguing. Chris Jones has had a couple of off games at point guard. Pitino inserted David Levitch to get the team moving against Cal State Northridge, the game before UK, and he used freshman Shaqquan Aaron at guard with Terry Rozier at point for a time against UK. Aaron hit a three-pointer in his first college attempt -- and it was U of L's only three for 35 minutes of the game. 

Pitino doesn't have rework things a great deal. His team just played the most dominant team in college basketball in some time to an eight-point loss on a night it couldn't buy an open shot with all the gift cards in Santa's sleigh. 

Some defensive adjustments (the Wildcats shot 48 percent in the second half) and offensive developments should have the Cardinals within striking distance of doing something special come March. 

But Pitino's main worry now is having his team's attention on a Long Beach State team that is road-tested, even if it is 0-8 away from home. 

"They played at BYU, a 95-90 loss, played at Xavier, played Xavier again and beat them," he told Meiners. "They played at UCLA. They played Washington. They played at San Diego State where they lost 60-59. At Texas in a war, at St. John's and at Syracuse. Now they've made probably $800,000 in guarantees. And from what I understand, I think the coach gets a large percentage of that. But you have to give him credit because he not only gets some money, but he played the best schedule in the nation. We've got to bring it. If we bring a North Carolina Wilmington performance, we'll get beat." 

Technically, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, Long Beach State has played the nation's No. 2 schedule, but Pitino's point isn't without merit. Long Beach played Texas tough on the road, and though it lost by 18 at Syracuse, has been close against some big-time teams. 

The Cardinals, who dropped only one spot, to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, after losing to UK, can't afford to have a post-Kentucky hangover. 

"This is a good game," Pitino told Meiners of the rivalry, dismissing the question of having lost six out of seven to the Wildcats. "It makes you a better team. . . . I remember when we were playing Marquette, they went on a run and won five or six straight, and everybody was saying Marquette had our number, and we had to turn it around, an we did. And what we've got to do (with UK) is turn it around. And when we've got the level of player and a deeper bench, we will turn it around." 

Pitino is hoping the turning continues today. 

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