Cards offense out of sync against Red Wolves

Why was Louisville's offense out of sync during an ugly 54-27 win over Ark. St. Tuesday night? Rick Pitino explains.

One thing is clear about injury-riddled Louisville through four games – the Cardinals defense is ahead of its offense.

That fact was apparent in Louisville's ugly 54-27 win Tuesday night against Arkansas State.

Playing without starting point guard Peyton Siva, and injured forwards Rakeem Buckles and Wayne Blackshear, Louisville struggled offensively, shooting just 37 percent from the floor, while committing more turnovers (15) than assists (13).

Defensively, the Cardinals turned in another gem, even without Siva, Buckles, Blackshear and Mike Marra, who is out for the season with an ACL knee injury. Louisville held Arkansas State to only 10 field goals for the game, limiting the Red Wolves to 27 percent shooting, including just 1 of 10 from behind the arch. The Cardinals forced 22 turnovers with their pressure defense, including 10 steals, and blocked five shots, four by 6'11 center Gorgui Dieng.

One reason - perhaps the reason - Louisville has looked out of sorts on offense is the absence of Siva, UofL's leader in assists and the catalyst for the Cardinals fast break. Without its top floor leader available, Pitino was forced to split nearly all of the minutes at the point between Russ Smith and Elijah Justice. Those two combined to make just 6 of 18 shots, while committing as many turnovers - four - as assists.

After the game, Pitino said his team's offensive problems stemmed from their inability to share the basketball - something that usually doesn't happen with Siva in the lineup.

"Our offense wasn't there tonight because we didn't share the ball enough," Pitino said. "We have been playing great offense, shooting a high percentage. Tonight, we didn't because we kept breaking down and going one-on-one, but that's OK. We won the game and that's what counts."

Arkansas State's slow-down approach and a foul-plagued affair – there were 43 combined fouls called in the game - contributed to UofL's sloppy offensive performance.

"They played a really slow pace and that made it hard to get out on the break," Russ Smith said. "We tried to turn the tempo up but sometimes that led to fouls in the backcourt. It's tough to play a pace like that, especially when our offense isn't working."

Senior guard Chris Smith, who led the team with seven assists, believes Louisville needs to become more selective and take better shots on offense.

"We took a lot of challenged shots at the beginning of the game and that kind of got us out of our flow instead of sharing (the ball) more," Chris Smith said.

Kyle Kuric, who led UofL with 12 points, said he hunted his own shot instead of sharing the ball with his teammates against Arkansas State.

"We've got to get back to playing team offense like we're playing defense," Kuric said.

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