CRAWFORD | Louisville loses at Clemson: What went wrong - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville loses at Clemson: What went wrong

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Damon Lee goes up for a shot against Clemson. (AP photo) Damon Lee goes up for a shot against Clemson. (AP photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — This was a trip to school. When Rick Pitino came in Thursday’s win at North Carolina State and talked about his team having “so many things to work on,” the evidence was on display in Sunday’s 66-62 loss to Clemson.

The litany of things that went wrong is long and glaring:

— Poor shooting from the perimeter, including 16 straight misses before finally making a three-pointer. The Cards shot a season-worst 35.3 percent from the field and just 3-for-23 from three-point range. Its top two scorers on the season, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, combined to go 5-for-31, and 1-for-18 from three.

— A lack of ball movement: The Cards had just 11 assists, and have had just 21 in the past four games.

— Too many fouls. The Cardinals’ best interior player was saddled with foul trouble all night and they sent Clemson to the line 44 times while shooting only 16 themselves.

— Not enough forced turnovers. The Cards’ aren’t getting steals, just five on Sunday and 21 over the past four games.

A lot of what happened on Sunday, according to Louisville coach Rick Pitino in his postgame discussion with Bob Valvano by Learfield Sports, stemmed for the Cardinals’ not responding well to Clemson’s physical play. Pitino said the game looked as if it were played under last year’s rules of contact instead of this year’s.

“We knew they were going to do that, and we got what we deserved today because we couldn’t match their physicality,” he told Valvano. “We can’t complain about the way the game was called because we’ve got to just play that way. We played the last eight minutes of the game.”

But by then, the Cardinals were down by 14.

If there’s a bright side it was this — despite all those things that went wrong, the Cardinals cut their deficit to two points in the final minute and still made it a ballgame at the end.

But there were too many mistakes before that. An examination of some of them (click the box score to enlarge the stats):

1. OFFENSIVE DISCIPLINE. Clemson is an improving defensive team and did some things to take Louisville out of offensive things it likes to do. For instance, on ball screens, it forced the ball into the hands of Louisville’s power forwards, who aren’t great with the basketball.

Pitino also said his team got too rushed on offense.

“They didn’t wait for the screens,” Pitino said of his players. “(If) you’re early, and now they can deny. Anytime on a screen, you have to be late. But Damion was trying to rush things so much that he never let the screener get the guy. The only one who knew how to play tonight a little bit was Quentin Snider. He was the only one who knew how to play this (way).”

2. PREOCCUPATION WITH SHOOTING AND OFFENSE. The rushing on offense, Pitino said, stemmed to some degree from becoming focused on individual shooting. Lee has been Louisville’s leading scorer all season. Sunday was his first game not in double digits, six points on 2-12 shooting from the field and 0-7 from three-point range.

“Damion Lee, you know, this was his first bad day,” Pitino told Valvano. “He was worried way too much about his jump shot rather than just playing Louisville basketball, win the game. You can’t get consumed with your jump shot, whether it goes in or not. You’ve got to be consumed with getting rebounds, creating turnovers, and doing other things in the game. Get an offensive rebound. Get a steal. If you’re going to be one-dimensional, then you’re going to have nights like tonight.”

Lee, though, was far from the only one. Pitino said the team as a whole is too fixated on offense, and he told them so: “I told the team at halftime, ‘There’s going to be nights where you don’t shoot well, so your defense has got to carry you. I’m going to tell you, last year’s team could win this game because they were a great defensive team, and you guys aren’t. So keep relying on your offense, and if you make the NCAA’s, you get knocked out in the second round.’ So it was a good message tonight, and a lesson learned.”

3. DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES. Clemson shot only 32.6 percent, but that’s misleading, because the Tigers went to the line 44 times. The Cards fouled too much, didn’t generate steals, and did not, in general, play to the scouting report.

“You have a left-hander and give him his left hand,” Pitino said. “You have a guy who is a dominant right hander and you give him his right hand. So scouting came into play. . . . I don’t want the fans to get discouraged at this loss, and I also don’t want them to get carried away. This is not last year’s team. I’ve said that all along. Because we were a great defensive team last year, and our offense could get better and better. We’ve got to get our defense much better, because when you foul 44 times you’re not playing good defense.”

The Cards also haven’t worked on many elements of their press, and they needed it on Sunday, but didn’t execute all that well in it, though they worked hard in it.

“it’s something that we’ve got to work on,” Pitino told Valvano. “We’ve got so many things we must work on with this basketball team. We know it. But we’ve got a lot of guys who don’t have the quickest feet in the world. I’m really disappointed in Anas (Mahmoud) and Ray (Spalding) tonight because they shied away from physical contact quite a few times. You can’t do that, regardless of what your weight is, you’ve got to mix it up.”

4. REALITY CHECK. Pitino understands how valuable this win on the road would have been. But he also knows it could get his team a bit more serious about preparing for a hot Pittsburgh team that comes into the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday night.

“Our team needed to get knocked down a few pegs, to get realistic about their abilities,” he told Valvano, “and they did tonight."

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