Pitino blames defense in Cards' 73-67 loss to Memphis at Yum

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Memphis Louisville Basketball

U of L senior guard Russ Smith tried to drive around Memphis' Joe Jackson in the first half Thursday in Louisville. Smith scored 19 points. Jackson put in 15 for the Tigers.

TIMOTHY D. EASLEY — AP

  • NEXT GAME

    SMU at No. 12 Louisville

    When: 1 p.m. Sunday

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LOUISVILLE — A "White Out" in the KFC Yum Center turned out to be lights out for Louisville.

No. 24 Memphis scored the last seven points of the game to deal the No. 12 Cardinals a 73-67 defeat Thursday.

"Give them credit," U of L Coach Rick Pitino said. "They outplayed us."

Five players scored in double figures as the Tigers (11-3, 2-1 American Athletic) notched the 1,500th win in program history.

Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson scored 15 points each, with Goodwin adding eight rebounds and Jackson notching six assists. Geron Johnson totaled 13 points and 11 rebounds. Then came Chris Crawford with 12 points and Austin Nichols with 10.

Louisville (13-3, 2-1) had won two in a row since falling at Kentucky.

The Cardinals were outrebounded for a fifth consecutive game, 37-35, and simply didn't play to Pitino's expectations on the defensive end.

"I think (Memphis) did an excellent job," Pitino said. "They took us off the bounce and hurt us. I think they rebounded very well. I thought their freshman is a really good freshman, Austin Nichols. He made a lot of good plays and our guards didn't block out when they rotated.

"We're just not the defensive team we once were in the past two years, because our basketball I.Q. is just not that good this year, and we need to get better at it."

Luke Hancock came off the bench to lead U of L with 20 points, one more than Russ Smith. Montrezl Harrell logged 14 points and 11 rebounds.

As for defense or lack thereof, consider that Memphis made 28 of 55 shots (50.9 percent) to Louisville's 25 of 64 (39.1 percent).

"You can't give up 51 percent at home and expect to win a ball game, even though we could have," Pitino said.

Now 0-3 against ranked teams, Louisville trailed 36-33 at halftime.

The Cards rallied to take a six-point lead when Harrell hit a turnaround jumper, making it 61-55 with 5:22 left.

The lead was still five, 64-59, when Harrell threw down the last of his four dunks.

But Memphis tied with back-to-back dunks by Goodwin and Johnson, the latter converting on an and-one.

Harrell gave U of L its final lead, 67-66, on a lay-in off a Hancock lob.

Johnson's two free throws at 1:24 put Memphis up 68-67, and the Tigers got four defensive stops to close things out.

Jackson scored on a goaltending call with 39.6 seconds left, then hit one free throw at :18.4. A Goodwin dunk punctuated the win.

Memphis was coming off a 69-53 home-floor loss to Cincinnati, shooting 24.3 percent from the field in the second half.

Tigers Coach Josh Pastner credited Thursday's turnaround to his assistant coaches and to his players.

"Obviously we had a tough game on Saturday against a great Cincinnati team," Pastner said. "They obviously kicked our butts and there was a lot of stuff going on in the city. The earth was flat for four days. So my staff did a great job of keeping the guys together.

"And then, obviously in the end, the players made plays. This is a players' game."

So what will Louisville's players have to do to right matters?

"We've got to know what defense we're in," said Terry Rozier, who scored seven points off the bench. "Sometimes we're in a two-three (zone), sometimes we're in 'man' and people get mixed up. So we've just got to know what we're in and correct that."

The Cards are having to fix things without Chane Behanan, who was dismissed from the team Dec. 30 for violation of university policy.

"You just never know, with Chane it could be a totally different facet and change some things," Smith said. "But this is what we have and we can't make any excuses. You've just got to play with what you have. It's tough, but it's reality."

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

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