CRAWFORD | Pitino takes blame for Louisville's late fade in 66-6 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Pitino takes blame for Louisville's late fade in 66-63 loss to Baylor

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This is not the kind of game Rick Pitino is accustomed to losing. The University of Louisville basketball team was fired up for its matchup against Baylor in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

The No. 10-ranked Cardinals took it to No. 20-ranked Baylor from the opening tip, charging out to a 25-5 lead, dominating the Bears' talented front line on the glass and confusing Baylor with pressure defense.

Baylor went 5-for-5 to finish the first half to cut its deficit to 15, but Louisville appeared well on its way to a sixth straight victory -- and an impressive one -- after 20 minutes. Appearances can be deceiving.

From that last stretch of the first half after the final TV timeout, Baylor would shoot 71 percent from the field, making 22 of 31 shots the rest of the way. Louisville, meanwhile, was the Walking Dead.  After leading 44-24 with 16 1/2 minutes to play, it was outscored 44-19 the rest of the way, as Baylor stormed back for a 66-63 victory.

Losing to a nationally ranked team in your third game in three days isn't the end of the world. But Pitino said this one was difficult to take because he was the primary culprit.

"These guys, cutting and screening, literally were walking through every play in the second half," Pitino told reporters after the game. "So they were tired, these two guys (Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell) in particular, because it's their third game in three nights. And unfortunately, we're not very deep right now because of our scholarship limitations, and we've got to use David Levitch and Ryan McMahon more. So this loss is on me.

"We played so hard in the first half. It took a lot out of us three nights in a row. We were overtime in the first game. And tonight we were pressing. It was the only way we could win, was to pressure them, because in the half-court they could beat us. And we did a remarkable job. If Donovan played eight less minutes, he wouldn't walked around in the second half, wouldn't have been in the wrong defense, Deng (Adel) wouldn't have been in the wrong defense, Q wouldn't have been in the wrong defense. So, I've got confidence in V.J. King, I just don't have a lot of confidence backing up (Snider and Mitchell) and I've got to get it. Because you can't play this kind of style and walk around like that."

Mitchell had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists to lead Louisville in every category. Snider had 14 points and three assists. That was 49 percent of the Cards' scoring. Jaylen Johnson added 10 points, the only front-court player for Louisville to reach double-digits.

Adel went 1-for-9 from the field and finished with four points in 30 minutes. King played only 12 minutes and finished with five points. The Cardinals got just 3 points on 1-of-5 shooting from the center spot.

Baylor was too much inside for the Cardinals in the second half. Big man Jonathan Motley came alive to finish with 15 points. The Bears outscored Louisville 36-18 off the bench and 46-38 in the paint. Of their 17 second-half field goals, seven were layups or dunks.

Louisville led 54-42 after a Snider three-pointer with 10 minutes to play. From that point, Baylor went on a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to three, then after a Johnson dunk, reeled off eight more consecutive points, the last six on layups, to take a three-point lead. The last of those two layups, runouts after easy steals by Jake Lindsey at the top of the key, signaled the "low fuel" light for the Cardinals.

After the game, Pitino said he told his team, "Look, we're going to have a lot of games like this. Some we're going to win, and others we're going to lose. You've got to realize why we lost. I lost this game, because I'm afraid to substitute. And I can't be. We walked around, didn't have a fast break, weren't the same team, and it's obvious. Three games in three nights is difficult, especially for an inexperienced team. We came down and gave up a layup on the right hand side, we were supposed to be in a zone, we played man, that happened seven out of eight times. These guys are way too smart for that. So it's my fault we lost this championship. It's bitter. But that being said, we'll learn from it. I'll learn from it as a coach, to play these guys, whether I think they're good enough or not."

The Cards return home from the Bahamas with a 5-1 record and will return to action at home next Wednesday night against Purdue in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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