Pitino uses press that helped U of L to past glory

Relentless full-court pressure defense has long been a trademark of Rick Pitino coached teams. And while his No. 12 Louisville squad has proven adept applying the press this season, his team is using a different variation than it has in past seasons - the 2-2-1.

Relentless full-court pressure defense has long been a trademark of Rick Pitino coached teams. And while his No. 12 Louisville squad has proven adept applying the press this season, his team is using a different variation than it has in past seasons.

This season, primarily because of a rash of early season injuries and a bench not as deep as he's accustomed to playing with, Pitino has turned to a version of the press he hasn't used much in the past - the 2-2-1.

Following Saturday's 85-62 victory over Tennessee, Pitino credited his team for "pressing better and more intelligently" this season. He credited his players experience at Tuesday's media gathering as one reason for his team's successful pressure defense. He then noted that the 2-2-1-press doesn't tire his own players as much as did his more traditional denial, man-to-man presses - an important factor for a team that rarely goes more than 8 or 9 deep off its bench.

"We're also running different presses this year than we have before," explained Pitino. "We're more concerned about pressing and trapping and we're not creating any fatigue [for ourselves]. So that's why we've gone to a 2-2-1 match-up press."

Of course long-time Louisville fans are no strangers to the 2-2-1. Denny Crum used the press to lead a youthful, smallish bunch to the school's first NCAA title in 1980 and kept with it throughout much of the 1980's - a decade that saw the Cardinals reach four Final Four's and win two NCAA championships.

"It's not a tiring press at all," said Pitino. "It's one that can slow the other team down and create some steals but it's not an all-out deny. We've been pressing that way about 80-percent of the time and it's a lot different for us than what we've done in the past."

Pitino says the 2-2-1 has another benefit for his team - one that has helped make the Cardinals one of Conference USA's top defensive teams. Wearing opponents down with the 2-2-1 and making them exhaust much of the shot-clock simply bringing the ball upcourt has proven a winning formula for the Cardinals. They're averaging nearly ten steals, while forcing more than 19 turnovers per contest. Likewise, U of L's foes have averaged just 61 points and are shooting below 37-percent for the year.

"It also works the clock down a little bit," added Pitino. "The 2-2-1 makes [the opponent] take their time, reverse the ball and you get close to some ten-second violations."

More importantly, Pitino's crafty employment of a press that has helped Louisville to past glory may wind up providing some in the very near future.


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