The University of Louisville basketball team wasn’t used to an early exit from a conference tournament, winning 10 games in a row in postseason events.
But when the Cardinals bowed out to North Carolina in their first game – the quarterfinals – of the ACC Tournament last week, U of L coach Rick Pitino had to find something for the team to do with the extra down time.
So the Cardinals practiced.
U of L was back on the practice floor less than 24 hours after the loss in Greensboro, N.C., last week and ended up getting in at least four extra practice session they likely wouldn’t have had if they had won in the event.
”We’ve had enough practices for about three weeks of games,” Pitino joked. “The guys are definitely improving and looking forward to March Madness.”
Pitino said the extra time gave the staff to evaluate some of the younger players who were not seeing a lot of minutes and also allowed them to tinker with the lineup. But Pitino doesn’t expect any changes for Friday when the Cardinals meet UC-Irvine at 4:10 p.m. in KeyArena.
What the Hall of Fame coach does expect is a team playing “some of its best” basketball of the season when they meet the Anteaters.
”I feel great about them,” Pitino said. “I thought the last two weeks of the season we played really good basketball. We played a great half against North Carolina and there are two weaknesses we’ve fallen into a trap in every loss – challenged shots. We were 2-for-12 (on challenged shots).”
Pitino said his past teams at Louisville have typically been around 20 percent for the season on challenged shots, but this team is only shooting 8 percent.
”In the end of the game, eight of the 12 shots we took were challenged shots,” he said. “And the other things is when we give up offensive rebounds, we play poorly. So those are the two things we have spent a lot of time working on.”
Pitino did let the guys have a little fun, taking the team bowling on Friday. They attended private gathering for the Selection Show.
”We’re excited for March Madness,” he said. “I just think it’s the most exciting few weeks in all of sports.”