Pitino: Cards need to play like "starving dogs"

With just six regular-season games remaining, Louisville coach Rick Pitino says his team needs to play like "starving dogs" if they hope to return to their winning ways following Wednesday night's 85-68 loss to Memphis. And the No. 9 Cardinals (20-4, 8-2) will get their chance to feast on visiting South Florida (10-11, 3-7) this afternoon.

Rick Pitino says his team needs to get back to work on defense.

And that's exactly what you'd expect the coach of the ninth-ranked Louisville Cardinals (20-4, 8-2) to say, especially after giving up 85 points to rival Memphis Wednesday night in a 17-point homecourt loss to the underdog Tigers.

"I think they'll be fine," said Pitino. "We're 20-4 and having a terrific season. We're coming off our poorest performance of the season and we've got to get our defense back."

Pitino said he met with each player on the team following the loss to Memphis to make sure his team understood why they were drubbed at home by the Tigers and what they needed to do to prevent another let-down in the future.

"I met with them all individually and we practiced double sessions just so they understand why these things happen," Pitino said.

Louisville will try to get back on track this afternoon when South Florida (10-11, 3-7) pays a visit to Freedom Hall at 2:00 PM. The Bulls, winners of two of their past three games, fell 55-47 to Saint Louis earlier this week.

"They're a good basketball team," said Pitino. "They're fundamentally sound defensively. They have a quick point guard who scores. And they've got some good big men."

But the more pressing problem for Pitino than South Florida is to figure out a way to get his team to play harder. Or, more aptly, as former Kentucky great Ralph Beard describes, "like starving dogs."

Beard, a frequent visitor to U of L practices, was known as an intense, hard playing-type back in his days. After a short discussion with Pitino, the Louisville coach had the 77 year-old Beard address his team following the loss to Memphis. And, according to Pitino, Beard told the team the reason he was a good basketball player was that he played like a starving dog.

"The starving dog analogy is very much true," said Pitino. "We played the last five minutes of that game like starving dogs but it was too late. If we had played the first five minutes like that we wouldn't have had a night where we were so dejected. We paid the price for not playing like starving dogs."

"I told Tello, if tomorrow your performance in terms of intensity (meant) you don't eat until Monday,..." Pitino said. Apparently, the message registered with the talented freshman. "I said that's the feeling you've got to have, baby."

And with just six games remaining in the regular-season, Pitino knows he needs to find a way - quickly - to once again get his team playing to the best of their ability.

"Right now, we just have to get back to playing great basketball," he said. "The biggest thing I tried to get through to the players is that they have to understand why you play well and why you don't."

TIME 2:00 PM TV WDRB-41 RADIO 84 WHAS, Sirius 148

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