The Hall of Fame basketball coach says play good defense and the offense will come. Been around the block a few times but what does he know?
Never did Rick Pitino’s words ring more true than they did in still another offensive struggle for his University of Louisvile basketball team on Saturday. The shots were banging off the rim again, and Miami was methodically increasing its lead to 29-19 at the half.
Louisville was not going to beat Miami 55-43 without some dramatic change in the second half.
Pitino reiterating in the locker room what he had been harping on all week, all season long and as long as anyone can remember, demanding relentless pressure on the defensive end. Anything less resulting in a third straight loss, loss of self-respect and a dismal outlook for the end of the season.
First play of the second half, one-two-three-four Miami passes, Chris Jones sailing high to deflect fifth one coming down with the ball, racing half court for a jumper over Miami’s 6-foot-10 Ivan Cruze.
Maybe, just maybe, the message has gotten through.
Every Miami pass is contested on the next trip down court, Montrezl Harrell pulling down the rebound. Finding Jones open in the corner, going up for the shot, good for three. Wayne Blackshear will follow a Miami three-pointer with one of his own.
Harrell will steal the ball on the next transaction, Louisville will rebound three missed shots, and Harrell will close it out with a 3-pointer. UofL has cut the gap to two. They will claim a 36-32 lead after a lay up and a 3-pointer by Jones. Welcome back, Chris Jones.
Miami would reclaim the lead again three minutes later but the UofL players had already been born again on defense, challenging every pass, and dribble. Channeling their inner Andre McGee, the former UofL point guard now playing his trade as an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City. Making Roger Burkman of the 1980 championship Cardinals proud.
Embracing the message, taking it to heart, and unleashing it on the frazzled Hurricanes who would manage only seven baskets in the final 20 minutes.
Thirty-seven deflections in the game, meeting Pitino’s expectation for a change. The coach just may have something with that “good defense, better offense” approach.