Being No. 1 in the land did not last long for Louisville.
The now fifth-ranked Cardinals (16-3, 4-2) have lost back-to-back games since entering last weekend as the nation's top-ranked team. Louisville travels to Georgetown on Saturday looking to bounce back from its latest setback, a 73-64 Big East Conference loss at struggling Villanova.
"Anytime you play in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or any great conference," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Thursday, "you're going to have peaks and you're going to have valleys, unless you have one of those great basketball teams that dominates the conference — which is not the case in college basketball this year.
"That being said, what I try to emphasize is just getting better execution-wise leading into March, just playing our best basketball at that time. Keep working on the execution and good things will happen."
Finishing has been a problem in Louisville's losses to then-No. 6 Syracuse — which upset the Cardinals Saturday 70-68 — and Villanova. Tuesday's defeat against the Wildcats was especially frustrating for Pitino because of his team's poor performance at the free throw line.
The Cardinals trailed the Wildcats by as many as 10 points in the first half before rallying to take the lead 52-46 with 8:25 remaining in the game. Villanova closed with a 27-14 run helped by Louisville's 7 of 18 free throw shooting, including missing five of its final six.
Sophomore forward Chane Behanan had an especially rough game, hitting just 3 of 9 from the line and Junior Gorgui Dieng missed both of his second-half attempts.
"I do have concern about our power forwards and what they're shooting from the foul line," Pitino said of Behanan and freshman Montrezl Harrell, who are averaging 54 percent and 52 percent respectively on free throws.
"Anytime they're shooting in the 50 percentile that bothers me, so we have to work on that."
Louisville's tournament outlook seems solid despite just one win over a ranked team (against Missouri in November), but the Cardinals enter a five-game stretch with three on the road. After the Georgetown (13-4, 3-3) matchup, Louisville hosts Pittsburgh and Marquette before traveling to Rutgers and No. 24 Notre Dame.
Each upcoming opponent except Rutgers has either been ranked or received votes in the poll this season. Still, Pitino's concern is his Cardinals putting their last loss behind them.
"We move on and get ready to face a very tough Georgetown team," he said.