That's okay, says Rick Pitino, who stated Monday before the Cardinals traveled to Providence for a tough road game against the Friars that there's no other team he'd rather dig out of a hole with than his current group of players.
"With the exception of Syracuse I think this is going to be a marathon for a lot of teams," Pitino said of the Big East. "We're going to play moving chairs throughout the season. It's certainly not easy losing two home games and when you do that you put yourself in a hole. I don't think there's any team I'd rather fight out of a hole than this one. It's going to be a grind. We're going to have to be a great road team."
Louisville opened the season 12-0, rising to #4 in the polls. But the Cardinals, who rank as one of the nation's best defensive teams, have lost three of their last four games, including Big East home games against Georgetown and Notre Dame to fall to 1-2 in conference play. Despite limiting the Irish to 32 percent shooting, Louisville lost 67-65 in double overtime Saturday because they committed 18 turnovers and missed crucial free throws."We made mistakes in both games," Pitino said. "Georgetown beat us, but we blew the Notre Dame game. We were up four with 1:25 to go in the game and just made very poor decisions, offensively and defensively, and we lost the game because of it. Now we've got to win on the road."
"We have to be a great defensive team and get stops in crucial situations," Pitino said. "We have to shoot free throws well because the games are all going to be close. We're an average team but we're going to have to make them in the clutch. And one thing that shot us in the foot against (Notre Dame) is we turned the ball over 18 times. So we can't do that."
How will Pitino keep his team positive during their current slump?
"You've just have to look at the big picture," Pitino said. "It's a long season. I've had teams that had to win 6 of 8 on the road in February to make the tournament."
"I don't think this team has any glaring weaknesses and I don't think this team has overpowering strengths. This team is a solid basketball team. They're attitude is terrific and they're going to get better because Chane Behanan is getting better, Gorgui Dieng is getting better and Peyton Siva is getting better."
Stuck with his worst three-point shooting team at Louisville, Pitino says the Cards will have to rely on their interior strength and defense to wins games this season. The Cardinals are shooting only 32 percent from three-point range, fourth-worst in the league. With his team struggling from outside, Pitino plans to start attacking opponents on the interior more with Dieng and Behanan.
"We're concentrating on developing an inside attack," Pitino said. "We are trying to go inside more and develop that. We're not the three-point shooting team that we have been but you have to change. I sort of knew this would be the one team that wouldn't utilize (the three pointer) the way I've utilized it throughout my coaching career. Everything we're doing recruiting-wise is based around that and every person we're recruiting has to be a three point threat. Shooting cures a multitude of sins. So we have to rely on defense and our low post game. It will just be for a year but we have to do it in order to win."
Pitino wants Behanan to post up closer to the basket like he did against Notre Dame, when he had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Pitino said Dieng, the leading shot blocker in the Big East, has to stay on the court for his team to have success.
"I think Chane's making improvement and Gorgui's making improvement," Pitino said. "I think Rak's (Rakeem Buckles) getting healthier. The front court is improving steadily as the season goes on. We've been working very hard on low-post moves and Chane did a very good job in the last game getting position. When we first got him he liked to post up 7 or 8 feet off the lane and that's a passing spot in this league. We explained to him if he wants to score he has to get himself to the middle of the rim and he did that the last game."
Dieng fouled out in two of Louisville's three losses. Dieng picked up two early fouls against Notre Dame that forced him to sit out most of the first half. Pitino publicly disputed Dieng's second foul against the Irish on Monday afternoon.
"The referee put Gorgui in a bad situation. The second foul was a phantom touch call and then he had to sit," said Pitino. "They let so many things go and that's my problem with Big East officiating. I really hate the touch foul that puts somebody on the bench, whether its your center or point guard. That bothers me because we have to keep him in the game."
With Dieng on the bench and 6'8, 235-pound junior Stephen Van Treese still out with a knee injury, Pitino has been forced to play forward Rakeem Buckles, who is coming off ACL surgery, as the Cardinals reserve center.
"There's a significant drop off when you (don't) have a 6'10 shot blocker back there," Pitino said.
As Pitino focuses on attacking foes inside, the Louisville coach knows his team needs Peyton Siva to pick up his play. Pitino said Louisville's junior guard, who had five turnovers against Notre Dame, is making strides after being slowed by injuries earlier this season.
"He didn't play well the other night but I've got a lot of confidence in Peyton Siva," said Pitino. "He made a lot of mistakes the other night that he normally doesn't make. Prior to him getting hurt…..he was playing lights out. And then he had a real serious ankle injury and a concussion. He hasn't come back yet. I see glimpses of him coming back, not in the last game but I see it in practice. I think he'll come back as good as ever and I think you'll see a much better basketball team when he does come back to that level. I think he's very close to getting back…and I don't expect him to make the mistakes he made in the last game."
Pitino expects a tough game tomorrow at Providence and says the Friars are capable of beating any team in the league on a given night. Four of the Friars five starters average 12 or more points, including 6'2 guard Vincent Council, who leads the way at 16.5 points and is second in assists in the Big East with 6.6 per game.
"They are playing extremely hard," Pitino said. "They lost their big scorer, but they have four players in double figures. With the exception of at St. John's they've been in every game. They're a dangerous team because they're very good one through four. They're a little small at the five but they play everybody tough at home."