Pitino looking for smarter play, seven wins

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino met with the media on Wednesday night prior to his radio show at Buffalo Wild Wings. Pitino was previewing Thursday's game against St. John's but – obviously – answered more question's about last Saturday's historic five-overtime loss at Notre Dame. Cardinal Authority was there with this story and video:

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said he had never been through anything like last Saturday's five overtime loss at Notre Dame.

"And I don't want to do it again," he said on Wednesday night.

But what Pitino does want to do is make sure his team learns from the mistakes made against the Fighting Irish and play smarter.

"Two things have stopped us from having a great season: foul shooting and our intelligence," said Pitino, whose teams plays host to St. John's on Thursday night.

The No. 12 Cardinals (19-5, 7-4 Big East) recently lost close games to Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova and let the Notre Dame game slip away several times with key mental mistakes and errors down the stretch and in OTs.

"In three of our five losses have beat ourselves and for a veteran team it's disturbing," Pitino said. "We are playing with great heart but very little head. You have to play smart as well as play hard you have to combine the two to be a successful team and they know that."

Pitino said two days off after the Notre Dame game – which had been previously scheduled – helped the team and his staff. Now, his main goal is to get the team to play smarter starting against the Red Storm.

"Focus a little better, pay attention a little more to your role at that point," Pitino said. "Russ (Smith) had a night that he wants to forget. But he has had a lot of great nights that have helped the team get to some high heights.

"You would rather have it happen to you in February if you learn from it in close games come March."

Pitino said he told Russ Smith that he needs to learn a lot from his 4 of 19 shooting performance and noted Smith took the loss hard.

"Russ has to learn that we have some other talented offensive players," the coach said. "He's got to shoot less and pass more to guys like Chane (Behanan) because we have some offensive talent."

But against Notre Dame, Pitino said it wasn't just Smith who had a bad night. He said even with Behanan's career-high 30 points he wasn't close to perfect.

"Russ had bad night and I think Wayne (Blackshear) had a bad night," Pitino said. "Peyton (Siva) had a bad night with a lot of mental errors that were not only contagious but led to other mental errors.

"I don't think we had any (bright spots), honestly."

But with that game in the rear view mirror, the Cardinals are now focused on finishing the season strong. U of L has seven regular-season games left, including St. John's and then traveling to South Florida for a game on Sunday.

"We don't worry about the past, we learn from the past," Pitino said. "Our goal is to win the next seven games and finish the season 26-5. Seven straight wins and nothing less. We are playing hard enough right now."


Pitino said on his weekly call-in show on WHAS-840 that he expects Gorgui Dieng, Smith and Behanan all to test the waters for the NBA Draft.

The veteran coach said he would insist the three players submit their names to the NBA to get feedback from the pro teams. Players can put their names in without hiring an agent and then opt to come back to school.

Pitino said Dieng "shouldn't come back" for his senior season unless his drops and he's not picked in the first round.

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