The University of Louisville basketball program has had lackluster teams before. Nothing like this year’s, however. It’s the same script every game.  No one has the desire to do extra things. Defense is a second thought. Diving on the floor is non-existent. One quit counting how many open shots the opposition has during games. A Cardinal defender would come running past shooter, getting a hand up maybe two feet away.

Senior El Ellis averages almost 17 points but as a point guard has turned the ball over at an alarming rate. He has to 35 turnovers to assist 27 assists. In Sunday’s 80-53 loss to Miami, Florida, first year coach Kenny Payne started a second point guard, Henry Miller. Didn’t make much difference.
Payne has got be thing “why did it get into this.” Although the disputes it after every game.

Every game the same, exhibiting little basketball IQ, hustle or gamesmanship, no one covering anybody’s back. Me first, follow me to nowhere. One may have to give Payne a little bit of a pass. These aren’t Payne’s players except for Fabio Basili, Zan Payne and Louisville Western High’s Ashton Myles-Devore and Auden McCool.

Brandon Hundley-Hatfield, Jae’Lyn Withers and Mike James haven’t had many highlights. Kamari Lands and J. J. Trainor have done a few good things. No player has extended himself to the point of exhaustion.

Payne’s game plan is spread the floor try to get a good shot. A lot times Ellis possess the ball or gets it when no one else wants, which is a lot. He drives to the deep part of baseline under the  basket. He flies through the air and passes to someone for a three on the baseline. Or jacks up some ridiculous shots.

“This is junk,” one Louisville fan yelled as he left four minutes into the second half Sunday,  and the Cards trailing by 26. “This is embarrassing.” They would trail 60-29 minutes later with 11:21. Why stay?

Payne has continually said he is not discouraged that he can get things turned around. He told the players the other night, “I haven’t quit on you. Have you quit.” He said he asked every player and they all said, “No ,we haven’t quit.”

Words are easy. Winning is not. After home losses to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State. All three were by one point as the team made a late run in each game. Those may have been the good ol’ days, the last five losses have been blowouts.

“We just allow our mistakes to pile up on each other,” said Brandon Hundley-Hatfield.  “Once we start making those mistakes we have to come together as a group and talk about it so we don’t keep making the same mistakes. We just have to take more pride on running in transition, running harder, playing harder.”

After the NCAA cleared the Cardinals from any serious penalties, many believed the program had already hit rock bottom. It was too late for Payne to really work on recruiting any of the best players for 2023-24. He must hope to get the best out of the transfer portal.

“They say we are the fourth tallest-team in the NCAA. I don’t see shot blocking. I don’t see contesting at the rim. That’s a problem for me,” said Payne. “When things get bad. I don’t see us fighting through adversity. I see us splinter. That’s a problem for me.”

This team has many, many problems.

Share this

By Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.