University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was back in his familiar place on the bench as the Cardinals ended a seven-game, five-day trip to Puerto Rico on Saturday night.
And they did it in style - with a victory.
The Cardinals overcame 26 turnovers and a lot of slipping on a floor that developed wet spots all over it but got another big game from Damion Lee and pulled out a 77-72 win over the Puerto Rico Junior Team.
"I think our biggest problem all week with our team is turnovers," Pitino said. "When you look tonight at the execution, we shoot 54 percent, they shoot 33 percent. We got 41 deflections, which is extremely high, a record.
But we have 26 turnovers to their 16. So when you have 41 deflections and shoot 54 percent and the other team shoots 33 percent, you’re looking at a 30-point victory. Instead, we won a tight ballgame, and it’s because of turnovers."
Center Mangok Mathiang said he turned around early in the game and said, "Is that coach P," referring to Pitino. The Hall of Fame coach had been coaching the Puerto Rican National team against U of L this week.
"It was something we hadn't heard all summer and I missed it," Mathiang said.
Pitino coached the PR national team to a 3-1 record against the Cardinals, while U of L was 1-2 against the Juniors. Pitino said it was "a nice ending" to get a pair of victories on Friday and Saturday.
"This is going to help us so much," Pitino said, and then when asked if it was what he thought he would get out of it the coach responded with "two times more."
Damion Lee scored 28 points, including 10 in the first four minutes of the second half, to pace the Cardinals. Mathiang added 10 points, while Quentin Snider finished with 10 points and six assists. Chinanu Onuaku had seven points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists, while Trey Lewis fouled out after eight points.
"We have a ways to go," Pitino said. "But we're going to be a good team."