CRAWFORD | Louisville will look to avoid Bellarmine scare tactics in final tune-up
Every year around Halloween, Bellarmine throws a scare into an NCAA Division I opponent. Louisville will look to avoid the fear factor when the Knights visit the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Every year, somewhere around Halloween, it seems there’s an NCAA Division I team somewhere that Bellarmine throws a scare into.
Last year, it was a nine-point loss at Cincinnati. The year before, an 11-point loss at Indiana. In 2014 there was a seven-point loss at Cincinnati. In 2011, they lost to Louisville by eight and Xavier by three. That came a year after winning by two at Xavier.
On Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center, David Padgett and his Louisville Cardinals hope to avoid the 2017 version of fright night.
Bellarmine had a difficult start and finish against No. 12-ranked Cincinnati in Freedom Hall last week, playing the Bearcats even in between before falling 89-61.
After that game, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin described the value – and challenge – of facing the NCAA Division II Knights and coach Scott Davenport.
“Preparing for Bellarmine is why we play Bellarmine,” Cronin said. “Scotty is the best offensive coach in America, and giving our players a chance to watch them is worth playing the game. They see the value of passing the ball and moving. . . . They led the world in field goal percentage. Division I, II, III, NAIA, Europe, led the world -- because of the way they pass and move.”
After some early defensive lapses in a victory over Kentucky Wesleyan, Padgett said his players will have to be more in tune defensively Tuesday night if they want to avoid a scary scenario.
“The great thing about playing Kentucky Wesleyan and Bellarmine each year is you get two completely different styles of basketball,” Padgett said. “Two different styles of preparation. It's going to be a good test. Bellarmine returns 11 players from last year's team that obviously had a great season, as they always do. They're one of the best offensive, passing-shooting teams in Division II, if not the best. It's going to be a good test for us. It’s completely different from the way Kentucky Wesleyan plays, but I know our guys are excited about it and looking forward to getting back out there.”
Davenport said his team could build on the last 10 minutes of the first half and first 10 minutes of the second against Cincinnati. In that time, the Knights played good team defense, had crisp ball movement and were within a couple of free throws of cutting their deficit to 11. They missed an unusual number of free throws in that game, however, and could never pull closer than they did at that point, following a 14-2 Cincinnati run.
The Knights struggled with Cincinnati’s athleticism and depth, and Louisville has those assets to burn. To make up for it, Davenport asks his team to be fundamentally superior.
“We can’t simulate their length and athleticism,” Davenport said. “Everybody talks about our passing. Well every time we score, they get the ball. So the difference in our team is our ability to defend together as a team. Team defense. . . . It just shows you how precise you have to be when you’re us and you’re playing a team like them -- how sharp and precise you have to be. You have to be exact. You can’t float it. You’ve got to run it into your hand. You have got to be the greatest fundamental team that’s ever played. And when you’re not, you’re going to get exposed.”
Davenport plays with set lineups during these exhibition games, so that everyone on the roster has a chance to start before the regular season begins. He does that because at any moment, he might have to call on one of his reserves to play a key role.
Padgett is still tinkering with rotations, and says that could continue well into the regular season, which begins in Louisville Sunday against George Mason. The Cardinals have a set starting lineup – Quentin Snider and V.J. King at guard, Deng Adel and Ray Spalding at forward and Anas Mahmoud at center.
“That's going to be a little bit of a process here for a little while,” Padgett said. “We're still not going to have Ryan (McMahon) tomorrow. He's getting better but it's just taking time, so he's going to be out. But just trying to get our new guys to figure out their role, trying to find our rotation. The good news is, we have guys that we can put in. We have plenty of talent on the bench, it's just a matter of guys learning what they need to do from an individual role basis in order to help the team.”
For Padgett, it’ll be game No. 2 on the sideline, and a final tuneup before the real thing this weekend. At least, on the other end of the sideline, he’ll see some friendly faces.
“Coach Davenport was the ops guy my first year here, the 2005 Final Four year,” Padgett said. “Obviously his son Doug I know very well, we were here together on staff for a couple of years before he went to Eastern Kentucky. I've known them for a long time, great people, obviously he's done an unbelievably great job with that program. Every year they're in the Elite Eight or Final Four, if not winning a championship, which he's done. We've been close for a long time and I just really admire the job that they do.”
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