The sky is falling! Fire Pitino! My new year’s is ruined!
Those are just some of the things I’ve heard from some of my fellow Louisville fans in regards to the Cards’ 78-63 loss to Kentucky on Friday. If you are one of those who believe it’s the end of the world, then don’t read any further. The bottom line is simply this: Kentucky is better.
Nobody wants to ever admit that about their biggest rival, but I’m sorry, it’s the truth. Kentucky is more skilled and more athletic than Louisville and if these teams played ten times, I believe the Cats win seven or eight of the ten. But why did Kentucky win on Friday?
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There were many things that contributed to the Cards’ loss. You can look at rebounding. Kentucky outrebounded Louisville 36-25. You could point to Louisville not trying to establish anything in the post, thus making it easier for Kentucky to defend the Cards. And then there’s the fact Louisville consistently failed to rotate their defense and left Josh Harrellson wide open underneath the basket.
In truth, all of those things were legitimate reasons.
As far as rebounding goes, Louisville did not lose on the glass because of lack of size. They lost on the glass due to lack of activity. A prime example of that is once again Terrence Jennings.
Jennings continues to frustrate with his lack of production on the glass. TJ played 28 minutes and grabbed a grand total of 4 rebounds. Contrast that with Gorgui Dieng, playing on an injured ankle for 12 minutes, who recorded the same amount.
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It seems like I’m saying this after every game and maybe I am, but there’s no reason TJ cannot get 7-8 rebounds a game. Gorgui Dieng does not rebound well because of his size. He rebounds well because he makes an effort to get after it on the glass. At this point, if TJ continues to stand in one spot and hope the ball falls to him, I really see no point in playing him. Give George Goode those minutes, at least he’ll make an effort.
Speaking of post play, the Cards completely neglected the paint. Even though Jennings does not possess a strong post game and Gorgui was hurt, Louisville still needed to throw the ball inside. At the very least, they could go inside to out. However, when you do nothing but work the ball around the perimeter, the defense does not have to work too hard.
Kentucky is a good defensive team, but the Cards did not make them work too hard defensively. Louisville was too predictable on offense, which not only helps the defense, but precludes you from getting good shots. I don’t know how many challenged shots Louisville took, but I think it’s easy to say they took far too many.
Finally, there has been much discussion about the constant double teaming of Terrence Jones, which led to easy baskets for Josh Harrellson. I personally got into a debate with a few people about this and as Rick Pitino said in his postgame presser, the issue was not the fact Louisville double teamed Jones.
The issue was the rest of the defense failing to rotate. As soon as Jones got the ball on the block, defensive help was there. However, no one rotated to cover the open man (almost exclusively Harrellson) right next to the rim. Whether or not the proper strategy was to double Jones can be debated, but if you are going to do that, the rest of the defense must make the correct rotations.
Louisville did not and it bit them square in the…well, you know.
As disappointing as the outcome was to the folks in red, let’s have some perspective. The Cards are 11-2 entering Big East play, which is probably a lot better than most thought they would be. Now, they do have a major hole to fill with the injury to Rakeem Buckles. The Cards must find a way to be effective on the glass, which is no small task considering some of the opposition coming up during Big East competition.
Rick Pitino certainly has his work cut out for him.
The Cards return to the floor Wednesday night as they welcome in Seton Hall to the KFC Yum! Center.