CRAWFORD | Louisville lacked execution, but not toughness, in loss at Purdue
David Padgett was disappointed in his team's first loss of the season, but said he was encouraged by his team's effort and intensity in a 66-57 defeat at Purdue.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WDRB) – Looking at the stat sheet, University of Louisville interim coach David Padgett shook his head.
“I must not be a very good coach,” Padgett said, moments after his team fell at Purdue, 66-57. “I told our guys if they outrebounded this team and made more threes, they’d win the game. We did those things, but we didn’t win.”
Sometimes, the math doesn’t work.
In this one, the intangible was that Purdue had sat in a locker room after a couple of losses and absorbed some lessons. Now, Louisville, as a team and a coaching staff, has done the same thing.
Before the raucous crowd showed up at Mackey Arena, the fire department showed up. An alarm forced the evacuation of the building for about 20 minutes or so.
What happened for Louisville later Tuesday night in its Big Ten-ACC challenge game was not a five-alarm fire. It was more like an alarm clock.
I talked with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on the court before the game. Neither of us were very optimistic about Louisville’s chances. Several lackluster wins against lesser competition. A Purdue team stinging from being voted out of the Top 25 after a couple of losses in the Bahamas, coming home to play in front of a student-heavy crowd 14,804, fueled by a black-out "Paint Crew” promotion. The Boilermakers had won 33 of their past 34 home games in that promotion.
Louisville was an 8.5-point underdog – and when was the last time you remember that? Between the two of us, however, we speculated that the margin could easily be twice that if the Cardinals didn’t improve significantly in the toughness department from their previous efforts.
They did. This was not a pretty game by any means, for either team. But Louisville walked into a difficult situation, having weathered difficult circumstances, and with just under a minute to play, was in the ballgame, and in fact despite all of the adversity, the FBI-shirt clad student section, some uncharacteristic turnovers from its veterans, the head coach on the sidelines in his first road game, the Cardinals were in the lead or tied for nearly two-thirds of this game.
They just weren’t in the lead when it mattered most.
“It’s going to hurt, and it’s supposed to hurt,” Padgett said after the game. “But I told our guys if they give me that kind of effort and hunger and intensity all season, we have a chance to be a really special team, and I honestly believe that.”
Louisville walked into an arena where Purdue had been shooting 57 percent from the field and 51 percent from three-point range this season and held the Boilermakers to 33 percent shooting and 22 percent from beyond the arc.
The only problem was that the Cards managed just 32 percent shooting themselves.
From a scoring standpoint, the difference was at the free-throw line. The Cards made 11 of 14 from the stripe, and continue to push the 80-percent mark from the line as a team. They just couldn’t get there enough (just two times in the first half, in fact). Purdue finished 23 of 32 from the line, making nearly twice as many as Louisville attempted.
Defensively, Louisville met the challenge. It held Purdue’s big men in check. Isaac Haas finished with just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field. Matt Harms had just four points and made just 2 of 5 shots in 22 minutes.
But Louisville couldn’t contain everybody. Purdue couldn’t generate second-chance points all night, until getting some late on big possessions. And Purdue’s three guard attack, when shut down from the perimeter, was successful slashing to the basket for points or fouls. Louisville couldn’t get quite the same offensive execution.
If you’re looking for where the Cards fell short, late turnovers were a big culprit. Quentin Snider, a senior point guard, has yet to find a comfort zone. He’s shooting just 29.5 percent from the field this season and 24 percent from three. And those shooting struggles likely have him pressing in the rest of his game. But Purdue coach Matt Painter knew those numbers weren't indicative of how important Snider is to Louisville.
"We were not going to read into his percentages for this year," Painter said. "We were going to read into who he's been at Louisville for his career, and his percentages are pretty good. I told our guys, don't treat him like that. He hasn't gotten going yet, but he's going to get going. Don't let him. . . . We honed in on him and (Deng) Adel."
Louisville trailed by only four when it called timeout to set up a play with 52 seconds left. But Snider walked after receiving the inbounds pass, and that was effectively it for Louisville.
He wasn’t alone in misfiring down the stretch though.
With the Cards up by one with just under four minutes to play, Adel threw a careless pass that led to a runout, and a foul. The resulting free throws gave Purdue the lead.
With 14:04 left in the game, Louisville led by five, 36-31. Then Purdue started going inside and picking up fouls on Louisville’s big men. It got a third on Ray Spalding, and before Padgett could get him out of the game, Spalding picked up his fourth on the next possession.
That was big, because Spalding was a key on Tuesday. The Cardinals were plus-14 with him on the floor. They were minus-23 in the 10 minutes he spent on the bench. He and Anas Mahmoud (plus-2) were the only Cards in positive numbers for minutes played, and both picked up their fourth foul with more than half of the second half remaining.
Purdue would go on a 12-0 run in that stretch, pushing out to a seven-point lead. Much of it was because of Louisville’s inability to adjust to the Boilermakers pounding the ball inside, but some of it was because as Purdue closed the gap and eventually pulled ahead, and with its big men on the bench in foul trouble, Louisville began to speed up in the half-court offense instead of becoming more deliberate. There were some rushed shots, and some shots and drives with no passing. That played into Purdue’s hands at the moment.
It’s also the sign of a team playing its first game of the season under those conditions.
Those are problems that can be fixed.
The better news for Louisville is that it didn’t get beat Tuesday because of effort, or talent, or because it shrank from the challenge. It got beat because it didn’t execute, and because some leaders didn’t have their best games. Those things are correctable.
V.J. King finished with 17 points. Adel had 13 on 5-15 shooting. Mahmoud had 11 points and eight rebounds. Spalding had 8 points on 3-10 shooting and nine rebounds. Louisville’s freshmen combined for only three points. The Cards’ bench was outscored 11-5. But the team competed with a physical opponent defensively and on the boards.
There were some good things. Now, we’ll see how they respond to a loss. For years under Rick Pitino, Louisville teams responded to losses with fire in their eyes. This team comes home Sunday to face a Top 25-caliber team in Seton Hall at 4 p.m. It’s a chance to correct some of the things that didn’t go right on Tuesday.
“Early season losses don’t hurt you unless you don’t learn from them,” Mahmoud said. “This was a great chance for our young guys and everybody really to get into this environment against a good team and try to get a win. I think we learned a lot from this.”
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