BOZICH | Duke takes Louisville down brick by brick - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Duke takes Louisville down brick by brick

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Louisville guard Chris Jones found himself surrounded by the Duke zone defense Saturday. Louisville guard Chris Jones found himself surrounded by the Duke zone defense Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville kept shooting the basketball the way the Cardinals shot it against Kentucky. You remember that video.

Short. Long.

Wide left. Wide right.

High. Low.

Too hard. Too soft. Roll out. Roll off. Roll away -- all against the Blue Devils' unlikely 2-3 zone.

"This was the most wide open we've been and we just could not knock down the shot," U of L coach Rick Pitino said.

Ten straight misses at one point in the first half of a game that Louisville lost to Duke, 63-52, Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. (Actually, 11 -- another one just fell out.) The final score was closer than most of the second half. The Blue Devils led by as many as 21.

The Cards dropped from 8th to 11th in Ken Pomeroy's national computer power rankings. That is their lowest rating this season. They are winless in three games against ranked opponents.

It was so one-sided that Louisville started rolling the inbounds pass to save time with 17 minutes to play in the first half. Those didn't go in either.

At halftime the Cards huffed and puffed their way to 20 points, the third time in the last seven games they have failed to score more than 20 in the first half. They call that a trend -- in the alarming division of trends.

The Cards made 7 of 31 in the first half and followed that by making 11 of 30 in the second half. That's 29.5 percent for the game. As Pitino said, often guys were open.

Louisville made four of 25 three-pointers. Terry Rozier scored 17. Montrezl Harrell had 10.  Chris Jones got two quick fouls in the first half and was on his way to a five-point game. That was pretty much it for Pitino's 15-3 team.

Didn't work. Won't work.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski usually likes a zone defense about as much as he likes North Carolina blue. But after watching his team be exploited for 56 points in the second half of a loss to Miami last Monday, Coach K aligned the Blue Devils in a 2-3 zone against Pitino's team.

Risky? Not really. 

Duke has the best post player in country, freshman Jahlil Okafor. He made eight of 10 shots, scoring 18. You expect that. What you don't expect is to be burned by Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who scored 19.

One of Coach K's best pals in coaching is Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, the Godfather of the 2-3 zone in college hoops. And after watching North Carolina and Miami exploit the Duke guards in the high pick-and-roll in back-to-back defeats, Coach K was playing the percentages.

It worked.

What isn't working is Louisville's offense. The Cards shot 32.7 percent when they beat Clemson. They shot 25.9 percent when they lost to Kentucky.

This was the fourth time this season Louisville has made fewer than a third of their field-goal attempts. They have lost half those games. (A win against Cleveland State is the fourth game in the collection.)

They do not have a Luke Hancock, Kyle Kuric, Taquan Dean, Larry O'Bannon, Francisco Garcia, DeJuan Wheat, Milt Wagner or Jeff Hall – a guy who is going to bury outside shot after outside shot.

“You've just got to keep working at it,” said former Cardinal Darrell Griffith, who was honored with other members of the Cards' 1980 NCAA championship team at halftime.

“Every time we got somebody open, we couldn't make a basket. But you just have to keep shooting. That's all you can do.”

That's all?

“Believe it or not, there are some ways (to score against a zone) “,” said Denny Crum, the coach of the 1980 champs. “Against their matchup I think you need to run some set plays, where you have set plays and set screens and set passes to get people open.

“I'm not trying to be critical, but you asked me the question. It's not easy. But there are things you can do … I've seen them when they weren't great shooting teams still score points. They just aren't shooting it well. It's tough out there.”

Pitino will have to figure it out. He knows that everybody the Cardinals play the rest of this season is going to defend the Cards with a zone.

Pittsburgh Jan. 25. Boston College Jan. 28. North Carolina Jan. 31.


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