CRAWFORD | No Mas! Puerto Rico 'destroys' Louisville in second i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | No Mas! Puerto Rico 'destroys' Louisville in second island test

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Jaylen Johnson prepares to make an offensive move late in Wednesday's loss to Puerto Rico. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Jaylen Johnson prepares to make an offensive move late in Wednesday's loss to Puerto Rico. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

SAN JUAN, P.R. (WDRB) — Scenes from two locker rooms. Before Wednesday night’s game against the University of Louisville basketball team, Rick Pitino was telling his Puerto Rico National players that there was no way they should allow a college player to score 36 points against them, as Damion Lee had a night earlier.

He told them that they needed to get serious about defense, that they were going to switch everything, and hound Louisville into submission.

After the game, a 96-62 demolition by Puerto Rico, Pitino walked into the Louisville locker room and told the Cardinals that they submitted. They gave in to frustration over officiating and trash talk and allowed themselves to become distracted.

“I think their spirits were destroyed tonight. They learned a valuable lesson,” Pitino said of U of L. “. . . The guys in the Louisville locker room were worried too much about officiating and not about playing basketball, and it takes you out of the game mentally. They learned a valuable lesson because they’re going to have to go at Duke and at Michigan State, and they can’t worry about anything other than that.”

Forget Duke and Michigan State. The Cardinals still have to spend four more nights in Puerto Rico. And Wednesday night’s game was without three of Puerto Rico’s top players, including J.J. Barea, John Holland, Renaldo Balkman and Carlos Rivera.

"We played with basically our second and third unit, and they played great," Pitino said.

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For U of L, the grit that allowed the Cardinals to stay in Tuesday’s game evaporated into anger. They were never in the game. Assistant coach Ralph Willard drew a technical foul late.

After his high-scoring debut, Lee made just 2 of 11 shots with Angel Vassallo in his lap most of the night. Vassallo, a 6-6 forward who twice won All-ACC honors at Virginia Tech and who was the top Puerto Rican professional league’s sixth man of the year in 2014, made Lee his personal challenge.

Pitino referenced a game in which a group of college stars beat the Dream Team in practices leading up to the 1992 Olympics. Then Michael Jordan stood up, and a day later, the result was much different.

FULL TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino's postgame comments

“The same thing they did with Damion Lee tonight,” Pitino said. “Vassallo said, ‘I’ve got him.’ Because they were embarrassed with him getting 36 points. These are athletes with a lot of pride.”

Wednesday night, it was U of L’s turn to be embarrassed.

“This was unacceptable,” said sophomore Jaylen Johnson, one of only two Cardinals in double figures, with 11 points.

The Cardinals responded badly to trash talking not only by the Puerto Rico players on the court, but found themselves in constant banter with the Puerto Rico bench. The Cardinals’ players began to show negative body language when they disagreed with officials’ calls. After the game, frustrated by something Barea had said, Chinanu Onuaku, instead of shaking Barea’s hand, flashed an elbow. Pitino and U of L coaches are considering some kind of action with Onuaku.

Lee wasn’t the only one who had a tough night from the field. Trey Lewis went 2-for-10. The Cardinals allowed Puerto Rico to shoot 51.5 percent from the field and outscore them 36-12 from beyond the three-point line.

“No, I thought our team was horse s—t tonight. The reason they were horse s—t is that (Puerto Rico) played defense like they’ve never played defense before. They’re getting a culture for the first time of what defense is all about. . . . In three weeks, Puerto Rico’s learned what it’s like to play great defense. Now they (U of L players) have got to learn to play the same type of defense.”

Pitino could’ve taken it a bit easier on his college team, but he didn’t. Even up 30, he didn’t empty the bench until 6 minutes remained in the game.

A reporter after the game asked Pitino if it was difficult to deliver messages to his U of L players when he is coaching the other team.

I’d say he delivered a pretty clear message on Wednesday.

None of this is designed to make U of L look particularly good — not that the Cardinals would be competitive every night even if they weren’t playing doubleheaders.

What it is designed to do is put them through a ton of basketball against decent competition. Nine games, that’s a third of a regular season.

That doesn’t mean the team will emerge from it playing Top 25 basketball. But it is better than sitting at home doing individual instruction.

Now, Pitino gets to see how his team reacts to adversity, who the true leaders are, and how the players will interact when things aren’t going well.

“We’ve got to represent the name across our chest and we didn’t do that tonight,” Lewis said. “We can never let up like that. We’ve got to continue to fight and play defense. Shots are not going to fall sometimes, but during adversity we’ve got to band together and find other ways. This game was a test, this whole trip is a test. It’s so early. One of the guys on the other team let me know that we get mad at ourselves too easy. We get down on ourselves. It’s a learning experience, and I’m glad we’re going through it so early, in August. I’m not worried about where this team is going to go. I think we can be a great team when we put it together. . . . It’s never good to lose a game like that, and not bring it and show what we’re made of. But there’s some things we’re going to talk about tonight.”

Mathiang, who played parts of both games, said, “Today we took a huge loss. All we can do is come together and put everything behind us and just move onto the next thing we’ve got to do to turn this whole trip around. We’ve got a bunch of leaders on this team. When we get back to the hotel we’re going to talk to guys individually and come back as a group and talk about it, without the coaches and all that, and talk mostly about our defense and attitude and work ethic, and what type of team we want to be.”

No, this trip is no day at the beach for the Cardinals. But Pitino is hoping it can smooth out the sailing later on.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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