Louisville faces bigger issues than ND loss

Rick Pitino has bigger problems than another puzzling home Big East loss to Notre Dame. The Louisville coach has to find solutions to his team's glaring problems with the toughest portion of the schedule still to come.

Rick Pitino has bigger problems than another puzzling home Big East loss to Notre Dame. The Louisville coach has to find solutions to his team's glaring problems with the toughest portion of the schedule still to come.

After starting the season 12-0 and rising to fourth in the national polls, Louisville has lost three of their last four games, including an inexplicable double overtime loss to struggling Notre Dame Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.

With a tough road game at Providence looming this week, Pitino has his work cut out to get Louisville back on the right track. After his team's loss to the Irish, Pitino will have no shortage of issues to address in practice before heading to Rhode Island.

"We are very disappointed," Pitino said. "To lose two home games in the BIG EAST with the type of schedule we have is very destructive to say the least."

How did Louisville come up short to a team that hadn't won on the road this season and shot only 31 percent from the floor, including 19 percent from the three-point line? Among the problems against the Irish:

* Turnovers.  Louisville committed 18 and forced only 11.  

??* Free throw shooting.  Louisville made only 63 percent as Rakeem Buckles and Kyle Kuric missed crucial free throws late during regulation.

* Notre Dame had more points off turnovers and second chance points than Louisville, which means the Cardinals didn't value the ball in a possession-type game and didn't get the job done on the boards.

* No production from guards Chris Smith and Russ Smith, as the two veterans combined for only five points on 2-12 shooting with no assists.

A few things are becoming clear about this Louisville basketball team at the halfway point of the season:

Louisville doesn't have enough talent to overcome the mental mistakes and missed free throws that cost them against Notre Dame. There's no denying that injuries to Wayne Blackshear, Stephen Van Treese and Mike Marra have stunted this team's growth and development this season, but the Cardinals lack playmakers at key positions.

If Louisville is going to reach its potential this season and get back in the Big East title picture, a true leader must emerge. The most obvious candidate is junior point guard Peyton Siva.

Siva is Louisville's best player, but he isn't consistently playing like it this season.  That's the main reason why Louisville is struggling, particularly on offense.  When Siva did positive things off the bounce in the second half and made good decisions with the ball in his hands, Louisville built a 47-40 lead.  But those difference making minutes from Siva too often have been offset by turnovers and inopportune fouls.

It's also evident that Louisville needs Gorgui Dieng on the court.  When he's on the floor, Dieng is a difference maker on defense who can erase a defensive lapse or two. When Dieng is limited by fouls, like he was in all three losses, Louisville is an average outfit when he's not on the court.

Now Pitino must get his team ready for a tough game at Providence, a team that beat Louisville on the road last season. For a team that was rising in the polls after an historic start this season, Louisville's coach will be trying to find some quick solutions for his struggling team.


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