Pitino talks Davidson

Rick Pitino called Davidson, Louisville's opponent in Thursday's NCAA Tournament, 'the toughest he's faced' in his coaching career in an opening round contest.

Rick Pitino said Monday that his players have put their unexpected Big East Tournament title behind them to focus on Davidson, the Cardinals second round opponent in Thursday's NCAA Tournament in Portland, OR.

"I think our guys have the celebration behind them and got back to serious work today," Pitino said. "We're looking forward to heading out to Portland and playing an outstanding basketball team."

Though Louisville entered the Big East Tournament having lost four of their last six games, the Cardinals left New York as one of the nation's hottest teams after beating Seton Hall, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati en route to their second Big East championship. Now, the Cardinals must quickly prepare for Davidson, the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament champions.

"Davidson is one of the most difficult teams I've faced as a coach in the opening round of a tournament," Pitino said. "They beat Kansas in Kansas City. They're a team that shoots the three at multiple positions -- I call it the Princeton offense on steroids because they do all the fundamental things a great offensive will do and they do it at a very fast pace. They look to run against anyone. They push the pace."

Bob Killop's team is led by all-Southern Conference forwards De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen. The 6'7 Brooks led the Wildcats in scoring (16) and rebounding (6.3), while the 6'10 Cohen chipped in 14 points and six boards.

"They've got two players of the year, one was voted by the media (Cohen), the other by the coaches (Brooks)," Pitino said. "But it's not just those two…they go seven, eight deep who can play."

A dangerous three-point shooting team, all five of Davidson's starters averaged double-figures scoring and made at least 21 three's. Pitino said the Wildcats, who ranked 12th nationally in scoring (78 ppg.), will try to push the pace against the Cardinals.

"I could pick 50 other teams that I would rather play, but I do like the fact that they run," Pitino said. "We have a very tough opponent. We could win, we could lose. This is the toughest first round game I've had as a basketball coach. They're a very, very good basketball team. They are an extremely well-coached basketball team."

"They are a great passing team, not good, great," added Pitino. "They are a great motion shooting team. They're very difficult to defend because of their motion. They can go inside and outside and their four and five put it on the floor great. The other three guards all handle and shoot well. They have a young man coming off the bench who shoots the lights out."

Louisville will try to wear down Davidson will full court pressure. That won't be easy because the Wildcats handle and pass so well. Davidson averaged just 11.8 turnovers per game. The Cardinals will also have to be careful not to be overly aggressive and put the Wildcats on the foul line. Davidson made 76 percent from the line this season.

"They are not going to beat themselves because they shoot it and execute so well," Pitino said. "They score a lot of points and they don't turn it over."

Though Pitino expected Louisville to play their opening round NCAA games in Columbus or Nashville, UofL's coach raised no objection to the Cardinals placement out west, pointing out that Davidson, located in North Carolina, also has to travel across the continent for Thursday's game.

"We never thought we were going to be in Portland..we thought we were going to be in Nashville or Columbus, but I'm fine with it," Pitino said. "I don't pay attention to where, time…none of that concerns me."

Pitino reflects on Big East title

Louisville's injury-riddled season was filled with plenty of ups and downs.

The Cardinals started the season 12-0, beating six conference champions while rising to No. 4 in the polls. Louisville then lost five of their next seven games, before winning six in a row during a late January/early February stretch. Before winning four games in four days to win the Big East championship, Louisville lost four of their last six regular season contests.

Peyton Siva looks to lead Louisville deep into the NCAA Tournament.
So what proved the difference for the Cardinals in the Big East tourney?

"We made up our mind that once the tournament was going to come we were going to play a style that was more conducive for our players," Pitino said. "We played very well in the (Big East) tournament. We still played good defense, but we picked up the pace offensively. Even in the Cincinnati game, which was low scoring, the pace was high."

The key for Louisville, though, was the play of point guard Peyton Siva. The Big East Tournament MVP, Siva scored 55 points, grabbed 25 rebounds, handed out 23 assists and made 11 steals to spark the Cardinals run to the championship.

"I think he learned a lot from (Seton Hall's) Jordan Theodore," Pitino said. "We talked a lot about changing pace all season long and he had a difficult time picking that up. When we watched Theodore on tape I think he learned a lot from him.

"Part of Peyton's problem is he just goes too fast and he can't stop. He's one of the fastest point guards in the nation. When you go that fast and don't change your pace you get off balance, you travel, you leave your feet. So he did a good job changing his pace."

Pitino also singled out Siva's work on the boards as a major key for Louisville's surprising Big East title run.

"A big part of our game…is the way he rebounded," Pitino said. "He did a great job of rebounding and we really needed that."

Pitino also said 6'11 center Gorgui Dieng and 6'4 small forward Kyle Kuric did good things for the Cardinals in Madison Square Garden. Dieng had double-digit rebounds in 3 of Louisville's 4 Big East Tournament games, made all 8 of his field goal tries against Notre Dame and blocked 13 shots, while Kuric scored in double figures in all four games in addition to grabbing 12 rebounds and handing out six assists.

"Gorgui played real well and I though Kyle did a lot of good things outside of scoring that he hadn't been doing," Pitino said.

Pitino also said that Louisville's ultra sleek InfraRED jersey's that the Cardinals unveiled during their Big East title run would be back for the NCAA Tournament.

"I think the Infrarred is here to stay," Pitino said. "The players would kill me if I tried to change. The players loved it. The bottom line is the players absolutely love them, they're undefeated in them and it would be silly to change right now."

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