Pitino: To beat Kentucky, Louisville must 'do everything'

UK 'the better team right now,' Pitino says

mmaloney@herald-leader.comDecember 30, 2011 

LOUISVILLE — Rick Pitino, Louisville basketball coach, Wednesday was sounding a lot like U of L football coach Charlie Strong did last July.

Having just suffered his first loss in 13 games this season, 71-68 to Georgetown, Pitino looked ahead to a New Year's Eve visit to archrival Kentucky.

"Well, we've got to watch a lot of film," he said. "Our guys haven't seen Kentucky play. I don't think they realize how good they are. They're a terrific basketball team and they are very tough to guard.

"I've seen them a few times. They are very tough to guard in so many different ways. They're great on the break. They are a very good team defensively, (and) that causes a lot of offense, so we've got to really study. It's more about personnel than it is any sets."

Last July, Strong talked of how his team was in a "phase of rebuilding" and how it had "a whole lot of weaknesses right now."

Two months later, U of L whipped the Wildcats 24-17.

Of course, with a No. 4 national ranking, Pitino's Cardinals won't be taken too seriously by playing the woe-is-me card. U of L is one spot behind the Cats.

As one might expect of highly ranked teams, both can play well at a fast pace. Quality of opponent may slow things a bit Saturday, though.

"I think Kentucky is the better basketball team right now," Pitino said. "So running up and down and trying to outscore Kentucky, I think, would be a futile attempt to try to get a 'W.' I do think if you play half-court basketball, you'll take yourself out if it's something you're not used to. ... You've got to do everything. You've got to go in transition. You've got to make them play you on defense. You can't take the first or second shot."

Kyle Kuric, a 6-foot-4 senior, led U of L scorers against Georgetown. Making a season-high five three-pointers, Kuric reached double figures for a seventh consecutive game, scoring 17.

"We've got to look at our weaknesses, go back to the film room, see what we're doing and just make our strengths come together as a team," Kuric said.

Junior point guard Peyton Siva, who totaled 15 points, six assists and five steals against Georgetown, will be making his second visit to Rupp Arena.

What will he tell his younger teammates to expect?"It's a crazy arena," Siva said. "Crazy fans. Crazy rivalry. Kentucky fans are crazy. They're going to get after you right when you get off the bus. So just tell the guys to keep our heads strong and stick together."

Louisville did some good things against Georgetown.

The Cardinals rallied from an 11-point deficit to tie. They committed nine turnovers to Georgetown's 16. They outscored the Hoyas 32-26 in the paint.

However, U of L was outrebounded (38-32) for only the second time this season. Georgetown shot 23-for-48 (47.9 percent), the best accuracy by a U of L opponent this season.

The Cards shot a tepid 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) at the free-throw line. And that turnover differential? Both teams scored 13 points off turnovers.

"This should help us along the season. Guys are going to be scared of losing," said guard Russ Smith, who scored 14 points. "We weren't scared already, and now we know how that feels, and now we're going to be scared of losing and fear of knowing how it feels to lose. So I guess this was a good thing. We just want to get ready going into Kentucky, prepare like we always have and hopefully come out with a win over there.

"We know how good Kentucky is. There's really no sugar-coating that. They go up and down — they've got shooters, they've got big guys, they've got great swing men, they rebound, run the floor. So it's really going to be a tough match for us, but we have to prepare well."

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