CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from Louisville's first victory in Pue - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from Louisville's first victory in Puerto Rico

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U of L athletics photo / Brady Klein. U of L athletics photo / Brady Klein.

MANATI, P.R. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville came from 13 points down, got big shots from newcomers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee, and strong play throughout from Mangok Mathiang to win its first game over the Puerto Rican national team, 84-81 on Friday night.

The win was the important thing. But it wasn’t a happy head coach who greeted the Cardinals in their locker room.

Rick Pitino saw a U of L team that was sloppy, that settled for too many jump shots, and in general didn’t play very well against a Puerto Rican team that was several of of its best players from the overtime game a night before. Pitino sat Renaldo Balkman, Angel Vassallo, Mo Harkless and Ramon Clemente, to take a look at some other players as he nears a decision on trimming the roster. NBA standout Juan Jose Barea has been sitting out to recover from a thigh bruise.

"You want to learn from your mistakes in victory, but last night they played a good team and played very well. Tonight they played a much lesser team and played very poor basketball, except at the end," Pitino said. "I’m a little disappointed in the way they played today. I’m very happy with the way they played last night. But like anything else they needed a victory tonight more than anything else, because they played so hard last night and came away empty."

Five takeaways from the win.

1. THE WIN IS THE THING. Mangok Mathiang, perhaps, summed it up best after the game: “You don’t want to come to Puerto Rico and not win a game.” Psychologically, the team needed the experience of winning, of executing and making winning plays down the stretch. To have that feeling is important.

The lessons learned will be of far more value, but the win helps bring those lessons along.

2. TOO MANY TURNOVERS. One of the constants of the trip to Puerto Rico has been carelessness with the ball. It’s not any one person. But add a few careless passes or possessions from each player and you wind up with what the Cards had last night — 19 turnovers, and six players with multiple turnovers. One of the most common on this trip has been the attempt at a long outlet pass after a rebound that results in a turnover near midcourt. Part of that is Puerto Rico’s ability and experience to deal with the break. But part of it is just sloppy play. And four times Friday the Cardinals turned it over simply by standing on the sideline when they received a pass to the wing. Those things should improve over time, but they aren’t Pitino’s only worry in that department.

“The first half they had 11 turnovers with nine assists,” Pitino said of U of L’s team. “Turnovers will get better. What bothers me is the nine assists. And that’s Trey Lewis not doing a good enough job at point guard.”

3. PITINO HASN’T TAKEN IT EASY ON HIS TEAM. The Cards played one of their best offensive quarters of the trip in the first quarter on Friday, then Pitino pulled a switch. He went to a zone, to see how the Cardinals would react to it, and they didn’t react well. The offense slowed to a halt. He admitted on Thursday he hoped Louisville would win. But put him on the sideline, and he’s not going to make it easy for anyone — even his own team.

4. LEWIS HAD HIS BEST MOMENT. Trey Lewis has made a good many mistakes on this trip, things that coaches should be able to clean up given time. But at the end of Friday’s game, Lewis hit a big three, scored on a big drive to the basket, and with 24 seconds left hit a baseline jumper to put the Cards up again 82-81.

He finished with 21 points and Damion Lee had 16. But Pitino said they both have major lessons to learn.

“I’m trying to get Damion Lee and Trey Lewis to understand, if they just live with the jump shot, they’re not going to be very effective basketball payers,” Pitino said. “They need paint touches, to create passes as well as shots. And finally in the fourth quarter, they did that. But that’s something they’ve got to learn. They live too much with the jump shot. Late in the game Trey started driving and making good plays.”

5. MATHIANG MAKING A MOVE. Mangok Mathiang had 17 first-half points on 8 of 11 shooting and did a good job quarterbacking the defense and providing a constant vocal presence.

Pitino said Mathiang was the only player he was pleased with.

“He’s playing well,” Pitino said. “He’s paying against inferior talent, but he played very well tonight. They couldn’t keep him off the backboard.”

“He plays Louisville basketball all the time,” Lewis said of Mathiang. “He always goes hard.”

The Cardinals will wrap up their tour with an exhibition against the Puerto Rican National Team on Saturday in San Juan.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
 

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