CRAWFORD | With Pitino on sideline, Cards finish with a win in P - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | With Pitino on sideline, Cards finish with a win in Puerto Rico

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Damion Lee. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Damion Lee. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

TRUJILLO ALTO, P.R. (WDRB) -- For the first time, the newcomers to the University of Louisville basketball team experienced a complete pregame preparation, warm-up and actual game with head coach Rick Pitino with the team.

They’ll probably not play another game like it. They arrived to the Coliseo Ruben Zayas Montañez in this San Juan suburb only to find that water had been shut off to the arena.

During the game against the Puerto Rico Junior National team, players were prone to slipping on wet spots that developed all over the court. By the end of the game, every U of L manager was sprinting onto the court when a player fell.

And all the while, the Cardinals heard the familiar — or for the newcomers, not-that-familiar — voice of Pitino.

It wasn't pretty. Playing their seventh game this week, the Cards made a ton of mistakes. They committed 26 turnovers -- but seven came because of slips on the court. They gave up big three-pointers. But they pulled out a 77-72 victory.

"I think our biggest problem all week with our team is turnovers," Pitino said. "When you look tonight at the execution, we shoot 54 percent, they shoot 33 percent. We got 41 deflections, which is extremely high. On that, we have 26 turnovers to their 16. So when you have 41 deflections and shoot 54 percent and the other team shoots 33 percent, you’re looking at a 30-point victory. Instead, we won a tight ballgame, and it’s all because of turnovers."

But this was also a mentally tougher, physically tougher Louisville team than played at the beginning of the trip. The Cards pressed from start to finish. They played their match-up zone, but switched to man-to-man out of it. And the intensity was better.

To some degree, they had no choice, because of the coach prowling the sideline. It was memorable for the newcomers, but even some returning players had to adjust.

"The intensity, it's how coach always is -- so intense, so hyped, so ready for the next play, ready for everything," Mangok Mathiang said. "He's always walking on the sideline, yelling, 'Come on let's do this.' He's yelling and the guys were looking and thinking, 'Is that Coach P for real?' It was something new for them. It was something I haven't had all summer and I've missed it. The first five minutes caught me by surprise. But we got used to it and second half came out and took care of business."

Trey Lewis played his first game with Pitino on the sideline, and agreed.

"It's a lot different with him coaching us," Lewis said. "He was really fired up. He just wants perfection from us. If it's not perfection, he's going to stay on us."

Damion Lee, the team's best offensive weapon the entire trip, scored 28 points, including 10 in the first three minutes of the second half. The Cards also got 10 each from Quentin Snider and Mangok Mathiang. Snider led the Cards with 6 assists. The Cardinals held a 44-34 rebounding edge and shot 54 percent from the field.

"I think we’re very athletic," Pitino said. "I think we’re fast. I think we’re eager to learn. But we’ve got to get Trey and Damion to understand this is a new game for them and to play fast. And we’ve got to get our interior people passing the ball better. That’s something we’ll work on."

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