CLEMSON, S.C. (WDRB) – Yes, the University of Louisville basketball team knew it was playing soft with the basketball Saturday at Clemson.

The players were told to stop forcing the ball into risky spots, dribbling the ball in places where Clemson could take it and simply throwing it away more than the Cardinals had in any game this season – 21, spread across 45 minutes in a 74-69 overtime loss at Littlejohn Coliseum.

“We were definitely aware we had too many turnovers,” V. J. King said.

Coach David Padgett made certain of that. U of L center Anas Mahmoud said that during nearly every timeout the coaching staff showed the players a clipboard outlining turnover, steal and rebounding totals.

“We knew exactly how many we had,” Mahmoud said. “We kept talking about it every single timeout. Everybody was saying, ‘Guys we’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to take care of the ball.’

“In the beginning of the game we were going way too fast. Even after we slowed down we gave up a lot of really bad turnovers.”

Padgett is still on them to clean it up – and should remain on them until they arrive at Florida State Wednesday night.

There’s nothing new math about it. Three of the Cardinals four worst turnover games this season have come against rugged, veteran, defensive-minded teams.

Against Purdue, 14. Against Seton Hall, 16, Against Clemson, 21.

Loss. Loss. Loss – for a team that slipped to 11-4, 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

On a day when Louisville outrebounded Clemson by nine, limited the home team to a 36.8 percent shooting performance and actually played well enough to move up in one computer power ranking, the Cards lost an extremely winnable basketball game.

“We were being soft with the ball,” said Quentin Snider, the Cards’ senior point guard. “We were being real soft. We just have to be aggressive with the ball.”

“You play so hard on defense and then come down and turn the ball over,” Mahmoud said. “We played way too well on defense just to come down and turn the ball over.

“It’s everyone. It’s a problem we’ve had today. We had in Purdue game as well. We had it in the Seton Hall game. It’s hard to imagine playing that hard and playing that good and losing because of something as simple as that.”

If the Cardinals lost their game at Kentucky a week ago because they not strong enough around the glass, they fumbled their opportunity for their first road victory with too many empty possessions.

Soft on simple perimeter handoffs. Careless with several high dribbles in the open court. Wobbly on entry passes that needed to be crisp to move cleanly through the veteran Clemson defense.

Padgett played nine guys against the Tigers. Eight turned it over at least one time.

The brightest yellow light was that Deng Adel, Snider and King, the three U of L players who need to show the most poise and strength, each turned it over four times.

“You can’t turn the ball over 21 times,” Padgett said. “It’s almost impossible to overcome.”

Think of it this way: Louisville had about 78 offensive possessions stretched over 45 minutes and nearly 27 percent did not result in a field goal attempt.

The 21 turnovers were a season high, four more than the Cardinals made against Omaha. Even if you subtracted the two they made in overtime, it was still more turnovers than the Cardinals had committed in their first 14 games, nearly 10 more than their average.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell credited his team’s defense. That’s not surprising – and not wrong. Clemson is a strong, veteran team that started two seniors and a pair of redshirt juniors.

Playing at home, the Tigers are conditioned to doing things their way. Clemson ranked third in the ACC in turnovers forced.

But Padgett also has veterans. Guys who were reminded the entire game to be stronger and smarter with the ball. Guys who should do better than the Cardinals did at the start of overtime.

After rallying from an eight-point hole in the final 9 ½ minutes of the second half, Louisville tied the game at 55, forcing overtime.

The Cardinals played from behind nearly the entire overtime, even after 30 unrelenting seconds of defense to earn a shot-clock violation on Clemson’s first overtime possession.

King lost the ball. Clemson made two free throws. Elijah Thomas blocked a shot by Raymond Spalding. Louisville retained possession but Spalding missed again. Clemson missed. Clemson guard Marcquise Reed took the ball from Snider and raced downcourt for a layup.

Ball game. Louisville never led in the extra five minutes.

“Down the stretch we didn’t really take care of the ball,” Snider said. “We were in the bonus most of the time. We should have attacked the rim down the stretch.

“That’s pretty much why we lost. We were just careless with the ball.”

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Mahmoud said. “We all feel that we had this game in our hands and it just slipped away. We played really good defensively. We executed our game play offensive and defensively very well.

“You can’t win a game with 21 turnovers. It’s a simple as that.”

It’s as simple as this: The Florida State team that Louisville plays in Tallahassee Wednesday night ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in steals at eight per game. The Seminoles feast on … turnovers.

“We’ve got to get the turnover thing fixed, obviously,” Padgett said. “With Florida State coming up, they thrive on turnovers.”

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