CRAWFORD | Clank. Five thoughts on Louisville's 63-47 loss to Vi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Clank. Five thoughts on Louisville's 63-47 loss to Virginia

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Rick Pitino during Louisville's 63-47 loss to Virginia. AP photo. Rick Pitino during Louisville's 63-47 loss to Virginia. AP photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It seems like I’ve seen that game before. Oh, right. Last year. Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s not even Groundhog Day, but the University of Louisville basketball team (actually, more accurately its fans, since only a handful of players from last year’s team were there for that loss) relived a painful memory on Saturday.

A year ago, the Cardinals scored only 13 points in the first half of a five-point loss to Virginia. On Saturday, before a White Out crowd at the KFC Yum! Center, they scored only 14.

There was one difference. A year ago, the Cardinals had a much tougher defense. Like this year’s team, they had only 32 points against Virginia with 6:30 to play. Unlike last year’s team, their deficit this year was 20 points, not nine. And the game was essentially over. Instead of a 5-point loos, like Louisville suffered last year at Virginia, this one was the most-lopsided it has ever endured at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cards traded baskets with Virginia in the second half, losing 63-47.

Louisville wore special adidas “White Ice” uniforms for this game — and were they ever. Louisville shot just 32.7 percent. And Virginia shredded the Louisville defense for 57.8 percent. In the last seven minutes of the game, the Cavaliers missed only one shot. After making two of its first four shots, Louisville made just one shot over the next 11 minutes — and still was down only 12 points.

“Tonight, we got discouraged by a much better basketball team,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after the game. “We are just going to try to get better and better, make the tournament, and see what happens come March. There is no reason to get down in the dumps because we are 6-2 (ACC) and 17-4 (overall). Now that can turn around in a hurry, so each win is going to be monumental for us — we have got to get one game at a time and put all our effort in that one victory.”

Thoughts on the game (click on the box score to enlarge):

1. REPORTS OF VIRGINIA’S DEMISE ARE GREATLY EXAGGERATED. Virginia hasn’t put up the dominant defensive numbers it has the past couple of seasons, but officiating has played a large role in that. When touch fouls are called, they’ve had to back off of what they do, and it has showed in the statistics, particularly in ACC play. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. In their previous games, these teams committed a combined 49 fouls. In this game, they were whistled for a total of 32. And in a much more physical game, Pitino said, his team didn’t adjust. Nor does it have the physical strength to play that game with Virginia.

Earlier in the year, I mentioned something about Virginia to Pitino and he said, “They play flawless basketball.” They certainly did on Saturday.

They’ve been offensively efficient all season. But Bennett said he spent the week after Tuesday’s near-loss at Wake Forest asking his team to rededicate itself on defense.

“It was our most complete game and the guys didn't get stretched (by Louisville’s offense, with its inability to make perimeter shots),” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Of course, Louisville really didn't shoot it well and they missed some shots. I think sometimes we had a hand in that, but at times they missed some. And we were complete on both ends of the floor."

Pitino was disappointed in his own team, but right at the beginning of his post-game remarks, had to express appreciation for how Virginia plays.

“You know at the end of the game two things really impressed me about them, they were up 20 and (Malcolm) Brogdon was yelling in front of our bench to his teammates, 'just get one stop guys, just get one stop,’” Pitino said. “Then on a sideline out of bounds play up 20, their hands immediately went up and we couldn’t see the option that was wide-open in the corner. Those are the little things that we are missing. Our mentality is to score and their mentality is to execute and stop. They deserve all the credit and obviously we got our brains beat in because we have that wrong mentality.”

2. OFFICIATING. I’m going to write about this, because it’s all anyone could talk about on Twitter. I do so much not so much as a factor in the outcome of this game, but just observing something over time. The one thing you’d like to see — and I’d say this is true for Bennett and Pitino and most coaches — is to know you’re going to play essentially the same game on the weekend that you played during the week from an interpretation standpoint.

Virginia is the same team as the one that sent Wake Forest to the line 29 times Tuesday. Louisville is the same one that sent Virginia Tech to the line 38 Wednesday night.

On the weekend, nobody got to the bonus in the first half. Ball-screen hedges with contact that have been fouls in most games this season were not fouls in this game. After complaining that refs need to recognize that offensive players driving into defenders shouldn’t get foul calls — his players that drove into defenders didn’t get calls in this game.

Russ Smith used to always get that call. Damion Lee can’t get it.

But the bottom line is that players have to adjust to how the game is called, and Virginia did a much better job of that than Louisville in this game. Lee got a bit preoccupied with the officiating, it seemed, and was taken out of his game for most of the day.

In the end, Pitino said, “It was called the polar opposite of Virginia Tech. Which is OK because then we can play that way, but we didn't. We didn't. Yes, it wasn't called the way of the new rules but it was called fairly for both teams. So we had an opportunity to be physical and we weren't."

3. SOME FACTS OF LIFE. Virginia is a special case, because the Cavaliers play one of the three slowest tempos in college basketball, and speeding them up is close to impossible. But this Louisville team does not turn opponents over a great deal, does not generate a high number of deflections (lately), and doesn’t possess great speed in the backcourt. It’s a better shooting team than last year’s team, but for shooting to cover those other shortcomings, you have to make the shots.

Some folks on Twitter suggested that Louisville needed to speed this game up in order to be more effective. That’s hard to do if you’re not making shots. And I don’t know if that’s advisable if you’re allowing 60 percent shooting, as U of L did in the second half. Might be a recipe for losing by 50.

So I’m not sure how this Louisville team will go about dealing with quicker teams — like North Carolina will be when it visits on Monday night.

The press isn’t as effective as it has been in the past. The ball pressure isn’t what it has been. And inexperience on the interior can lead to some pretty glaring layups and dunks — as it did in the second half Saturday (Virginia had four layups and four dunks).

In the first half — almost a carbon-copy of last season’s first Virginia game — Louisville’s guards over-penetrated, were looking to score around the basket, and turned the ball over or missed contested shots. In the second half Saturday, they stopped that, and Louisville woundup with seven layups or dunks in the half.

But here’s how good Virginia’s defense is. Louisville wore out Virginia Tech with three-pointers from the left wing on Wednesday — making seven of them. On Saturday, Louisville was only able to attempt five from the left wing, and only one of them was by Lee.

In the end, Louisville’s guards are going to have to be a lot better in these kinds of games, making the right decisions on when to move the ball and when to look to score.

“They were taking the wrong shots,” Pitino said. “They were penetrating too deep against (the defense) - the more ball movement and less dribbling you have, second half they saw them do a better job of reversing, screening, moving, screening, moving, and that's the way you can get good shots; but they fell right into the trap, we didn't want to dribble that much and Trey (Lewis) has a lot to learn about this game. It's nights like this where he'll learn a lot."

(A side note: Chinanu Onuaku did not start, and didn't contribute much off the bench after missing the last two days of practices with a stomach bug. He didn't score, didn't take a shot, and didn't grab a rebound, while committing five turnovers in 19 minutes. He did have two assists.)

4. ONE BRIGHT SPOT. Deng Adel has looked at times like a deer caught in headlights when he has come into games. On Saturday, he came in and contributed. He made a pair of three-pointers. He scored a career-high 12 points. He grabbed five rebounds. In the 21 minutes he played, Louisville was only minus-1.

“If you look for a silver lining . . .  that was the only silver lining,” Pitino said.

And, maybe, this. Of Louisville’s 16 made baskets in the game, 11 were by freshmen, as Rick Bozich pointed out in his column.

5. SAW IT COMING. Pitino has been harping about “winning with offense” for a couple of weeks. And everybody smiled and nodded, because it’s been a while since Louisville had an offense potent enough to win with. But in games like this, it takes more than offense — especially when the jump shots evaporate.

“Unfortunately I saw this day coming,” Pitino said. “I am not too pleased with it, but I saw it was going to happen, not quite as bad as we played tonight but I did see it coming just by the way we were playing defense against Virginia Tech and the way we played defense in practice. It was indicative by them shooting almost 58 percent for the game. We turned the ball over too much and you can't do that against a Virginia team but they played like an experienced basketball team. We played like a bunch of inexperienced guys that did not know what they were in for.”

Now they do. No. 2-ranked North Carolina visits Monday night.

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