Cards seek rebounding, shooting fixes

Louisville hopes to improve its shooting and rebounding - two problem areas in losses to Georgetown and Kentucky last week - against St. John's Tuesday night in New York.

Georgetown and Kentucky provided a litmus test last week for Louisville.

Rick Pitino's Cardinals came up short against both nationally-ranked foes.

Louisville, 0-1 in the Big East, heads to New York Tuesday for a key Big East game against St. John's after falling to the rival Wildcats 69-62 Saturday in Lexington. If the Cards hope to bounce back against the Red Storm and snap their two-game losing streak, their execution must match their effort.

"We're giving great effort, but we're not getting the fruits of our labor and we have to understand why," Pitino said. ""I've never coached a team that is willing to give the effort that this team gives. If we can somehow get our execution to match our effort we're going to have an outstanding ballclub."

Despite losses to Georgetown and Kentucky, it's clear Louisville plays as hard as any team in the country. It's also clear the Cardinals have two major issues they need to fix in order to challenge for the Big East title – shooting and rebounding.

Kentucky dominated Louisville on the glass, out-rebounding Rick Pitino's team by 26. Georgetown out-rebounded Louisville by six. Louisville's ineffectiveness on the boards was a major reason Kentucky (20-6) and Georgetown (15-11) held an edge in second chance points.

Pitino also hopes his team finds a way to put the ball in the basket more often than they did against the Hoyas and Wildcats. Louisville shot just 41.7 percent against Georgetown and only 32 percent against Kentucky, including an ugly 9 for 35 after the break. The Cardinals averaged just 65 points in their two losses last week.

"I don't think I've ever coached a team with this much will to win. But we've got to start shooting the ball better," Pitino said. "Sometimes we work so hard on offense we don't have our legs on offense. We struggled shooting the ball (against UK). We forced a lot of turnovers, but we didn't make them pay."

Pitino said Louisville needs better rebounding from small forward Kyle Kuric and guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Kuric grabbed just two rebounds against Kentucky despite playing 38 minutes. Smith hauled down five rebounds, but Siva had only two boards.

"Kyle didn't rebound the ball," said Pitino. "What I told him is he's no longer Kyle Kuric the walk-on from Evansville. He's on everybody's blackboard and the coaches tell their players if he gets one shot they're coming out of the game. He's got to learn to do more and he's not getting that done. He needs to rebound the basketball."

UofL will continue to rely on its defense until their offense improves. The Cardinals held UK to 29.8 percent shooting, forced 21 turnovers and blocked eight shots. But Kentucky grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and attempted 43 free throws, making 34.

"We are slowing them up and turning them over. We are confusing them and getting them to miss the shot," Pitino said. "But we're fouling too much and not blocking out. I think Stephan Van Treese could help a little bit when he gets back."

"We're trying to confuse people. We try to heat them up in the backcourt and try to wear them out, then try to confuse them and the third level is try to stop them. We're doing all three levels but we're not getting to the fourth and that's block out and get the rebound."

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville's 6'11 center, is a critical component on the backboard for the Cardinals. He was limited by foul trouble against the Hoyas and Wildcats, a reason for UofL's struggles on the backboard.

"He is the guy we have to have on the court at all times," Pitino said. "We didn't do a good job on the backboard with Gorgui out of the game. Having Gorgui not in the game hurts us because we're playing a guy (Rakeem Buckles) coming off an ACL."

Despite his teams struggles last week, Pitino believes the Cardinals have room to improve, especially as Wayne Blackshear, Stephan Van Treese and Kevin Ware work their way into the lineup. Blackshear, a 6'5 guard, dressed and went through warm-ups for the first time against Kentucky. He is participating during individual instruction and is expected to return later this month.

"I think we're going to be a very good team," Pitino said. "I just hope this schedule doesn't devour us in the interim. We've just got to focus on St. John's."

Louisville has beaten St. John's five of the last six games, including 88-63 last season when the Cards shot 54 percent and forced 25 turnovers. The Red Storm won three straight games before falling to UConn 83-69.

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