Louisville not happy with Kentucky's paint job

mmaloney@herald-leader.comDecember 28, 2013 

To Louisville's way of thinking, Kentucky's 73-66 victory over the Cardinals was an inside job.

A bigger, stronger UK team beat Louisville 44-36 on the backboards, outscoring the Cards 42-24 in the paint and 17-6 on second chances Saturday.

"From a physical standpoint, we're just getting outplayed at the three, four, and five spot. Physically, never mind execution-wise," Cards Coach Rick Pitino said. "We're just getting taken on the backboard, taken inside and we've got to improve in those areas."

Chane Behanan came off the bench to lead U of L with seven rebounds. Stephan Van Treese added five.

U of L had other flaws, too.

"We had a shot in the second half and missed free throws, made a big defensive mistake in giving up the three," Pitino said. "But give them credit. They did a good job against our pressure."

The defensive lapse Pitino referred to came during a decisive 13-3 UK run that gave the Cats a 66-56 lead.

The score was 60-56 when UK's James Young fired in a three-pointer.

"We did some decent things, but we're making way too many technical defensive mistakes," Pitino said. "We're down four, we've got a shot at it and we lose a man coming off a curl, which is a simple play to defend. They may drive to the basket and get fouled, but leaving a guy wide open and not being with him on a simple curl is just not good defense."

The sixth-ranked Cards (11-2), who came in with a national-best plus-9.4 turnover margin, committed 13 turnovers to UK's 11. Ranked 11th in steals with 9.8 a game, U of L finished with six.

"It comes down to rebounding and making some stops," said Russ Smith, who led U of L with 19 points and four assists. "Shots weren't going in for (U of L's big men). ... I guess it's just one of those games, and it happens. We've just got to move on and look forward to our conference play. We play UCF in a few days, so we've got to prepare for them."

No "Russ Arena" this time.

"I missed a lot of free throws (five of 10), and we didn't rebound as well as we should have," Smith said.

Backcourt mate Chris Jones followed Smith with 18 points.

"I don't think Russ played a particularly good game from a mental standpoint," Pitino said. "I think he took too many ill-advised, quick shots, and that beats you defensively. But they (the guards) played OK."

Later, Pitino added, "One of the keys today was we said we had to rebound from the guard spot because Mangok (Mathiang) can't block out Willie Cauley-Stein, we're going to have trouble with (Julius) Randle. And we had zero rebounds from Chris, Russ and Terry Rozier at halftime.

Montrezl Harrell, who finished with six points and four rebounds, said "hustle plays" also hurt the Cards.

"They outhustled us to every loose ball," Harrell said. "And as far as what we said we were going to do, rebounding as a team, we didn't do that. We got annihilated on the backboard. ... We didn't come in ready to play, and we got beat for that."

U of L will have to make a quick turnaround, playing Tuesday at Central Florida.

"I don't panic too much because it's early in the year," Pitino said. "I knew we were going to have some five-spot problems. I didn't know we were going to have so many three-four defensive problems. I thought that would be a better strength than it is, so we have to just continue to work on that."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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