Louisville basketball stuck in second gear

This wasn’t the University of Louisville going through the motions against an inferior opponent. A basketball team still out of synch defensively, allowing the lesser team to hang around too long.

UofL would defeat Central Florida, 87-70, but some familiar weaknesses were on display, a lack of aggressiveness on the boards, few shot blocks if ever, players getting beat on the dribble, and too much one-on-one.

“If we’re not clicking all cylinders, we’re going to get beat,” emphasized Rick Pitino after the game. “We have to execute almost perfectly to win.”

The Cardinals are 18-4 after the first 22 games, an exact replica of their record entering the month of February last season. But this is a very different situation, playing without four key players from that team.

Pitino may have given up on Mangok Mathiang, considering him a liability, giving him only two minutes of playing time, describing him as weak and ineffectual. Possibly some Pitino motivation at work, but he seemed to believe it himself.

Stephan Van Treese, showing some signs of life, actually looking to score at time, with a couple of surprising put backs and a layup. If this team is going to make a run, Van Treese is going to have to continue to get more aggressive. The passive/reactive approach is self-defeating, non-productive and a waste of everybody’s time.

Russ Smith was looking assert himself early, and he did, scoring eight of this team’s first 10 points. Not satisfied, he kept on penetrating, leaving his teammates behind, not getting them involved, and winding up on the bench too long. Those back-to-back six assists games a distant memory, taken a back seat to his game-leading 27 points.

Montrezl Harrell continues to get better in all phases of his offensive game, still needing, however, to improve his shot blocking abilities with that seven-foot wing span and focusing more on rebounding.

Luke Hancock, the indispensable player according to his coach, does all the right things. One wonders, however, about his intensity level and leadership abilities. Too cool is not cool.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.