CRAWFORD | Louisville responds to Kentucky loss with "an edge" in beating Pittsburgh
Louisville basketball players said they responded to their loss at Kentucky with resolve. They beat Pittsburgh 77-51 on Tuesday night in the first game since the blowout loss in Lexington.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Before Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings decided to bring up the whole “paying players 100 grand” thing on the KFC Yum! Center sidelines Tuesday night, the bigger story was the University of Louisville basketball team’s rebound from its 29-point loss at Kentucky.
Cardinals’ coach David Padgett wouldn’t go into specifics of the days of practice after that game, only to describe them as the most intense of the season. Sophomore guard Ryan McMahon offered a bit more colorful detail.
“It felt,” he said, “like that other man was back here.”
The result was a 77-51 get-well win over a Pittsburgh team tabbed to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference. How much can be taken from the victory is open to debate. Louisville was playing at home, against a team that didn’t defend particularly well, and that made just 6 of 25 three-pointers.
Pitt didn’t demand a high level of offensive discipline from Louisville, though the Cardinals showed more determination to run offense against the Panthers than they did a few days prior in Rupp Arena. And Louisville played solid defense throughout, holding Pitt to 34.7 percent shooting from the field and 24 percent from three-point range.
The Cardinals established a lead early, stopped and then answered Pittsburgh’s runs, and extended their already large lead in the closing minutes. That’s how things are supposed to work.
There still were too many possessions with just one pass, then a shot, trips that don’t move the defense to open up driving or passing lanes. They had just 11 assists, four by point guard Quentin Snider, suggesting that their reliance on breaking down defenders on the dribble was probably higher than will work against good defensive teams, of the kind they will face on the road in the next two games, when they travel to Clemson and Florida State.
Padgett, more than anything, was glad to see the way his team responded after the Kentucky loss.
“You never can predict how a game is going to go, but I would have been a little surprised if we didn’t come out with a little bit of an edge tonight, just based on how the last three days have been,” he said after the game. “They’ve been very intense. But we got better.”
McMahon said he and Quentin Snider sat down Friday night after the loss and talked about what needed to change after the Kentucky loss, “about how as guards we need to be better leaders,” and about what the team needed to do to set things right.
“Friday was a long night,” McMahon said. “I’m just glad we came out today and played a lot better. We were just numb. We all knew, we got outplayed in every aspect of the game, and it was embarrassing. We can leave that taste in our mouth and use it as motivation for the rest of the year, but we can’t let it affect us negatively for the rest of the year. It happened, so let’s just move on and learn from it and get into the ACC.”
In the ACC opener on Tuesday night, Padgett inserted freshman Malik Williams into the starting lineup for Anas Mahmoud, and Williams responded with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes. Mahmoud, off the bench, had 7 points and 5 rebounds. The pair combined for 7-11 shooting.
“Malik is a really tough kid,” Padgett said. “He plays hard every day in practice, and the last three days he’s played with a little bit of an edge. He comes in and rebounds the ball. He’s not shooting it well right now, but I’m not worried about that. He’s defending, playing hard, rebounding. . . . Anas got the stomach bug late Sunday night, was sick for about 24 hours and didn’t practice yesterday, so it was basically that. But I will say Malik’s last three days of practice have been his best of the year. . . . He earned the opportunity.”
Ray Spalding again limited himself with foul trouble, particularly troubling because his second came on a technical foul when he Pittsburgh’s Parker Stewart were both whistled for a brief exchange. He finished with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, but played only 16 minutes.
Louisville’s smaller lineup caused Pittsburgh some problems, and was able to apply more defensive pressure and more effective full-court pressure, but Padgett said that’s something he used as much out of expedience than design. It might work against smaller teams, but he doesn’t expect to use it against teams with more size.
The Cardinals again got a lift off the bench from McMahon, who hit a couple of first-half threes to get them going, and delivered solid defense and got a couple of steals in his 13 minutes. He wound up 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from three-point range.
“He’s experienced, can play the one or the two,” Padgett said. “He knows what to do. He’s been through it. He just has a sense of calm. Same kind of thing Quentin Snider has, so just having someone you can bring off the bench that’s been through it, been on the road and those kinds of things, is very valuable.”
If it’s anything Louisville players should know about at this point, it’s about taking a punch, getting back up and moving forward. On Tuesday, they showed they still have some fight left.
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