SAN JUAN, P.R. (WDRB) -- Full comments from University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino after his Puerto Rican National Team took an 89-81 victory over the Cardinals Tuesday night. He begins with an opening statement:


Interesting enough, I thought the Puerto Rico team would run out of gas, and it was just the opposite. Louisville ran out of gas. But I think they were so hyped up, and that’s the mental part of being so excited. I thought Louisville just took some ill-advised shots, and Puerto Rico’s defense became very aggressive in the second half and we got terrific play from Mo Harkness. But I think you all see what I mean about Damion Lee. I think this young man has a chance of greatness. This is only one exhibition game, but  he’s got a great mentality to score without being selfish. So that was a big positive.

Q: It seemed like the intensity of a regular-season game out there.

PITINO: Oh, it’s, you know, Puerto Rico is very upset when they come in at halftime. They don’t want to lose. Louisville doesn’t want to lose. It’s going to be a great series going forward. You know, we didn’t have a point guard for a while. When J.J. Berea went out, because our backup point-guard is hurt, but we got through it.

Q: What did you think about Chinanu’s performance?

PITINO: I think they’ve got the makings of being a great team. I really do. I’m going to be very up front with you. I thought this would be a total rebuilding year. Even with the additions, I thought it would be a rebuilding year. This trip has given me renewed hope that it’s not going to be, because of practice. Trey and Damion, Nanu’s improvement, Mangok’s improvement, and the length of our basketball team. Remember, these are all professional athletes. If there was any disappointment in Louisville it was in the first game. I was disappointed in that performance in the first game. 

Q: How did you get Puerto Rico’s offense going?

PITINO: We started running pure motion, and it helped us, we started shooting a high percentage, because Louisville knows all our plays. So it’s like they scouted every one of our plays. But once we started running pure motion, good things started to happen.

Q: What did you think of Guillermo Diaz’s play?

PITINO: Guillermo Diaz, I thought was going to have a heart attack. I told him, ‘You rest after the game, I need you.’ Because Larry Elias is not a point guard. 

Q: What did you think of Trey Lewis’ play?

PITINO: He did good. He’s a tough kid. He took a couple of ill-advised shots when they were only down three. He comes off the pick-and-roll and they switched, and instead of taking the guy on he settled for jump shots. Outside of that he was terrific.

Q: What about Kenny and Ralph trying to do a free-throw line switch?

PITINO: That brings me back to the Travis Ford Vanderbilt. That’s not a Louisville move, that’s a Holy Cross man, not a Louisville man.

Q: Will they be able to keep up this intensity day after day?

PITINO: This team is really special, with how hard they work. They ran out of gas tonight, for the first time, and got in foul trouble, but this is a much more physical game than the college game. It’s much more physical than the NBA. You see it, the way they guard the ball, they guard the screens. It’s not just Puerto Rico, it’s Brazil, it’s everybody. Every team plays that way, and it’s very, very aggressive.

Q: In the first game, Jay Henderson looked like a guy who could help you.

PITINO: He was the best player on the court in the first game. But now Matz did a lot of great things, even when he missed shots he did a lot of great things. But because he stands up right all the time, he doesn’t rebound. We show him tapes of Kenneth Faried, who stands in a wide base so he can rebounds. He stands straight up, so he has no mobility to rebound. He played all those minutes and got one rebound. Conversely, on the offensive end, he made some terrific moves. Even the shots he missed, he made terrific moves.

Q: What can you say about your team’s effort?

PITINO: When we went to Louisville, from one to ten, condition-wise, we were a three. When we left Louisville we were a six. Now we hope to get to an eight. If I can stop taking them out so much, they’ll get to an eight.

Q: Do you expect to have any more cuts?

PITINO: No, J.J.’s out. He’s got a bad quad bruise. But it’s good that when J.J. went out we got a lot of movement, a lot of play. It’s good to learn how to play without him, because foul trouble happens. But now tomorrow I’m hoping we’ll have Carlos Rivera, who is a terrific player. Berea is doubtful. I don’t think we’ll see him too much.

Q: Does Lee compare to anybody you’ve had?

PITINO: You know he’s a little bit better version of Ron Mercer, because he can put it on the floor. Ron was terrific. He reminds me of that. He’s such a quick slasher in and out, but he puts it on the floor well and can run pick-and-rolls better than Ron.

Q: Did you determine rotations for Louisville before this?

PITINO: That’s Ralph’s decision.

Q: It was interesting, he had Deng Adel play with Damion Lee a little. 

PITINO: Well we want to get Deng playing some four, so against small teams, we can switch a lot.

Q: Is that versatility something you saw in him?

PITINO: I think we’ve got a lot of versatility. I’m really, really happy with the way they guys played in the first half. They ran out of gas because, not so much the cardiovascular, but because the physical nature of the game wore them out. But they all got better. Really I was very impressed.


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