Pitino will exact a price for ignored game plan

Virginia and Louisville have a lot in common. They will never score a lot of points or blow out a decent team but they won’t allow opponents to get many points either.

What Virginia had going for it Saturday, besides a strong home court advantage, was Louisville’s 10-minute scoring drought in the first half. Too much to overcome for the Cardinals in a 52-47 loss. Debatable whether the lapse was because of Virginia’s stifing defense or UofL’s lack of assertiveness.

Coach Rick Pitino choosing to experiment during the dry spell, mysteriously inserting Anas Mahmoud, Jaylen Johnson and Shaqquan Aaron into the game. No surprise his team wasn’t converting anything during this latest maneuver. He loves to keep everybody guessing, with his oddly-timed mind-messing logic.

When Pitino does something so bizarre, obviously harmful to his own cause, he's more than just a little angry.

When Pitino does something so bizarre, obviously harmful to his own cause, he’s more than just a little angry. One could see the fire in his eyes while he was dressing down a perplexed Anas Mahmoud, of all people.

Pitino always sending messages to this players, this time for attacking too early during offensive sets. Too much one-on-one, he said afterward, not adhering to the offensive game plan. He wanted and they had practiced patience and ball movement for three days, but resorted to dribble drives early in the shot clock, playing right into Virginia’s hands.

After some fiery coaxing from the great motivator, they finally resorted to game plan in the second half. Pulling to within three points with 18 seconds left in the game. Twenty minutes too late. Chris Jones will miss the free throw attempt, foul an 84 percent free throw shooter and the game is over.

Truly amazing UofL had Virginia on the edge during the final minutes, but all the more reason to believe Pitino knew what was needed to compete with the Cavaliers.

The next several days of practice are going to be very long ones for UofL players, with a coach who is going to hold them accountable.  He will have their full attention.

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.

6 thoughts on “Pitino will exact a price for ignored game plan”

  1. Pitino has been talking about Virginia’s defense since before the season began, so much so that he intimidated his own players into thinking they were not going to be successful against it.

  2. The announcers sounded like they were talking about Louisville’s defense when they described Virginia’s approach, not that they would ever admit it. So shallow many of those so-called experts behind the microphones.

  3. Those little-used bench players would see more court time if they would do only simple thing; execute the game plan. In doing so they may not score at a less anemic rate than the starters, for now, but, that experience is exactly the singular key to their growth. The starters can rest assured that they will see the court even if they keep ignoring instruction, the bench does not need to follow their example.

  4. A coach who’s had as much success in the NCAA tournament as Pitino is allowed to make questionable decisions in January and February, especially if it leads to improvement. One can argue that a team doesn’t play as hard when it has a big lead, or that the lack of Justin Anderson was the difference in the second half, but the fact of the matter is, Louisville outscored one of the best teams in the nation in the second half of the game. That’s improvement. After losing Smith and Hancock, I had my doubts about the team this year, and it was confirmed early on with our lack of scoring. Louisville’s only losses has been to elite teams, and each of their losses were close games. In my mind, they have already overachieved, and after watching the 2nd half of the Virginia game, I think we have a real shot at going deep into the NCAA tournament. I may not understand why Pitino did what he did in the first half, but I’m not going to criticize him for it, just because I don’t understand it.

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