Why did the Cardinals taste defeat for the first time in nine games against the underdog Dragons?
Easy. Rebounding. Or more accurately, a lack of rebounding.
Louisville also didn't shoot the ball well from either the field, or free throw line. The Cards made just four three-pointers and missed 13 foul shots. Three starters – forwards Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra, and center Terrence Jennings - combined for just five points on 1-10 shooting.
But that's not why Louisville lost the game. Drexel also missed a bunch of shots, and managed only two more field goals than UofL.
No, Bruiser Flint's tough, scappy bunch out-hustled, and out-muscled Louisville's frontcourt on the boards. Drexel pounded the Cardinals 46-26 on the glass, limiting Louisville's fast break and second chance opportunities.
"It was a very disappointing loss," Pitino said. "We didn't shoot foul shots well, and we lost the game because we didn't rebound. It's a very simple stat. We got our deflections, we didn't turn it over. We didn't shoot well, which was okay because they didn't shoot well. We got out-rebounded 46-26 and that pretty much tells us why we lost."
"He wasn't rebounding all game.....and he hasn't been rebounding and putting up the numbers I expect," Pitino said of Jennings.
"I think they blocked out terrific," Pitino added. "I think their big guys just rebounded the ball really well and our bigs did not. We didn't get rebounds out of the three-spot, or five-spot."
Before the game, Pitino said a good UNLV team helped identify his team's weaknesses, but didn't elect to elaborate when asked by reporters. Drexel exposed the Cardinals shortcomings on the boards for us to see, pounding the point home during a 62-56 upset win – UofL's first at the KFC Yum! Center.
By controlling the boards, Drexel was able to control the pace of the game in their favor. The Dragons made it a grind-it-out contest, and UofL didn't respond, failing to capitalize on Drexel's 23 turnovers because they didn't make enough shots.
"We did a good job at defending and rebounding, which is pretty much what we do, and I think we got the pace of the game the way we wanted it," Flint said. "We didn't let them run up and down, shoot a lot of 3s and let Peyton Siva out of the lane. That was one of our big things."
Flint's team played excellent defense against Louisville. After Chris Smith (7 points) and Kyle Kuric (2 points) combined for 34 points in Louisville's big win over UNLV, Drexel shut down the Cardinals top perimeter reserves. And when UofL's outside shots missed their mark, Drexel was there to clean the boards.
"One of the things is keeping them off the 3-point line, and I think we did a good job at that," Flint said. "We wanted to chase them off the 3-point line, make them rush and run guys at them. I thought our guys did a good job at that. We kept them to one shot. I think that was important."
With finals ending this week, Pitino's team now should understand exactly where they need additional work during the holiday break. The first order of business will be shoring up Louisville's deficiencies on the boards. That will require Pitino to find solutions for a lack of rebounding production at center and small forward.
"We did not rebound well," Pitino said. "You don't rebound, you don't get out on the break and you don't do the little things that help you score."
"We've got to win as a team," Pitino said. "The parts are not as good as the whole here. It is what it is."