BOZICH | Pitino's fix at Louisville more difficult than the one - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Pitino's fix at Louisville more difficult than the one Coach K made

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This was the storyline before Duke made its first trip to the KFC Yum! Center Saturday afternoon:

The Blue Devils could not guard the knot in coach Mike Krzyzewski's tie. North Carolina State scored 1,000,000 on Duke. Miami scored 1,000,001.

Louisville might score 1,000,002. Coach K could forget about getting his 1,000th victory until February.

“Our defense hasn't been good,” Krzyzewski said.

 Duke 63, Louisville 52.

Louisville missed better than 70 better of its shots and 84 percent of its attempts from the three-point line. Louisville scored 52 against a team that had allowed 56 points in the second half of its last home game.

“We had a difficult time, very similar to the Kentucky game, getting good offense,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said.

“We had good ball movement, good player movement, but we just could not knock down shots. Sometimes it is very simplistic.”

This will be the storyline for the next week, until Pitino's team plays its next game Jan. 25 at Pittsburgh:

Louisville can't shoot.

The Cards don't have anybody to fear from 20 feet, 15 feet, 12 feet and perhaps even 8 feet. With an offense as erratic as this offense, Louisville could find turbulence on any given night in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“As I said, we're going to have a lot of bumps in the road this year,” Pitino said. “A lot of them. Not just a few, we're going to have a lot of bumps.”

That's how it works in a league like the ACC. The teams that ascend in the standings adjust. They find ways to hide their flaws and maximize their strengths. They change personnel or they change strategy.

Mike Krzyzewski adjusted. Now it's Rick Pitino's turn to make a move.

Coach K aligned his defense in a 2-3 zone. Before Saturday, Duke had played zone defense on fewer than 4 percent of its possessions this season.

“We have run zone before during the season,” Coach K said. “We have worked on it. But we didn't need it.”

Write this down: ESPN analyst Dick Vitale told me Saturday was the most zone defense Coach K has played in entire game during his 1,306-game, 40-season Hall of Fame career.

“I guarantee it,” Vitale said.

Coach K left his comfort zone because he had to leave his comfort zone. If Duke had tried to defend Louisville man-to-man, chances are that Chris Jones and Terry Rozier would have dominated the Duke guards Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook.

Instead, Rozier and Jones missed 19 of 26 shots, scoring 22 points. They contributed as many turnovers as assists – six of each. They did not dominate Jones and Cook, who scored 17 and only turned the ball over twice.

Now Pitino will have to make the next move, an offensive adjustment of some kind because if Mike Krzyzewski is going to play zone against the Cardinals you can be certain that Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), Jimmy Christian (Boston College) and Joe Bag O'Donuts is going to challenge the Cardinals with a zone, too.

“We practice zone offense every game,” Pitino said. “Do we expect them to play zone? Well, they never did.”

Pitino knows the zone will be coming night after night. The question becomes how does he adjust?

It's not as simple as switching your defense from man-to-man to zone. Louisville needs a more consistent post presence. Montrezl Harrell (one basket in the first half) needs another inside guy who makes it risky to double team Harrell.

The Cardinals also need more guys who can score from the perimeter. Shaqquan Aaron? Quentin Snider? Anton Gill? Somebody.

Understand that the fix Pitino must make is more difficult fix than the Duke fix. Former U of L coach Denny Crum told me that when he coached teams that struggled to shoot the basketball, he directed those players to run more set plays against zones.

“I have said we are a little offensively challenged from the perimeter so we've got to be meticulous with our paint touches because we're not a great shooting team,” Pitino said.

“When Luke (Hancock) and Russ (Smith) left, we sort of lost our perimeter shooting so we have to get paint touches. If you get paint touches, offensive rebounds come and then the dish to the outside is an easy shot. You step into it. So we're going to work on that.”

They have to work on it – just as Duke had to work on its zone.

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