Pitino wants Cards to pick up defense

Louisville coach Rick Pitino wants to see major improvement from his team in several areas during the Billy Minardi Classic this week, particularly on the defensive end after watching Kentucky easily handle the Cards 73-61 Saturday. Pitino promised subtle lineup changes, and wants to see Juan Palacios get nasty inside for his team.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino wants to see considerable improvement from his team during the two-game Billy Minardi Classic after watching them crash and burn in Lexington Saturday.

Specifically, Pitino wants to see his team play better defensively, and execute their half court offense with more patience and purpose.

During his pre-game press conference Monday afternoon for Tuesday night's game against Middle Tennessee State, Pitino lamented his team for taking quick shots and not executing their half court offense properly.

"With this team it's difficult because they have so much to learn," Pitino said. "We have so many guys that we have to teach, and we have to stop practice so much that it's tougher than it's ever been. But the good news is this team has so much potential. If they can ‘get it' this year without too many losses we'll be very good."

Pitino said one of the team's key focal points heading into the game against the Wildcats was to take good shots. Unfortunately, his team hoisted a few too many bad shots.

"We took seven shots that were four feet behind the three-point line – behind the NBA line," Pitino said. "That's from veterans, so you can't say it's because of young players. We only ran two possessions of our offense where we stayed with our offense the entire first half."

Pitino said he'll make some subtle changes to his lineup during this week's Billy Minardi Classic.

"I'm going to play Brad Gianiny more, and he'll probably start against (MTSU) to let Taquan (Dean) concentrate on what he does best, and not worry about whether he should get the ball to (David) Padgett or (Juan) Palacios," Pitino said. "We'll let Brad worry about that."

One thing that Pitino liked from Gianiny in the loss to Kentucky was the junior's willingness and ability to consistently feed the ball inside to Padgett during Louisville's second half comeback. "In the second half the team did very well with Brad on the court," Pitino said. "I want to see what he can do because he does make other people better."

"We have to go inside," Pitino said. "Every good offense has to work inside to out. Kentucky does a great job of penetrating and dishing inside. They're so big up front and they feed off (Rajon) Rondo. We don't have a Rondo, so we've got to attack inside a different way – we've to attack (defenses) by passing it into the post."

The Louisville coach also wants to see sophomore forward Juan Palacios pick up his production and start to do more of his damage inside the paint.

Rick Pitino wants Juan Palacios to get
nasty inside the paint.
"Tello's got to pick it up," Pitino said. "He's the one guy that should be much better than he is. I understand the ankle, and that's a legitimate (excuse), but now it's time for him to pick it up. He needs to go out there and get 12-13 rebounds, and score in the low-post. We all know he can shoot. He needs to get in there and mix it up, and get nasty and dirty."

Pitino would like to see Palacios, who had 15 points and 7 rebounds against the Wildcats, become more like NBA star Paul Pierce.

"He's the one guy that could be great," Pitino said. "He can give you 16 points and 13 rebounds consistently. I've told him he's got to emulate Paul Pierce. He thinks Paul Pierce is a three-point shooter, but what he doesn't realize is Paul Pierce gets down and dirty on the inside. He goes to the foul line probably as much as any player in the league. That's what I'd like to see (Tello) become, that type of player."

Pitino also wants to see his team begin to make big strides defensively.

"We have not defended well," Pitino said. "If you look at playing home games and allowing 41 percent field goal defense with that soft schedule that you're talking about, and allowing 38 percent from the three-point line, that's bad. We're not forcing enough turnovers. I want a differential of eight and we're only forcing three more than our opponents. Our assist to turnover ratio out of our point guards is not good."

"I want to start seeing great defense," added Pitino. "That's what you need to be a good tournament team because you never win in the NCAA Tournament all the way through with offense. There's always one night where you shoot 39 percent, and you need to be able to rely on your defense to get you to the next game."

Pitino said he'll be looking for improvement Tuesday night against Middle Tennessee State in several specific areas.

"I want to see us come out, have good field goal defense, good three-point defense, and force turnovers," he said. "That's where I want to see improvement made with this team right now. That's my biggest concern."

Pitino Cries Foul

Pitino publicly criticized the officiating in the Kentucky game, specifically the two early first half fouls on starting center David Padgett.

"The only thing I came away disappointed in besides our play (was) the officiating," Pitino said. "I've been through the film two or three time and I can not find David Padgett's first two fouls. I can't see contact on the first foul at all, and I can't see the second warranting the call."

"They would have still won, but that's what bothers me," Pitino said. "That's not why Kentucky won the game, but he had to sit the entire half and never played. If one of your premier players gets a ticky-tack foul early on it's going to affect the outcome of the game."

Cards Make the Grade

Pitino said the grades came out Monday and reported that the team did well in the classroom during the fall semester, reporting a 2.7 team grade point average.

"Our grades came out, we did great, and some guys had their backs against the wall," Pitino said.

Pitino specifically mentioned 6-11 freshman Jonathan Huffman. "His back was to the wall. He had to just study 5-7 hours a day to do what he did. We were considering giving him time off to concentrate academically. He pulled a 2.8 (GPA). That's a West Virginia comeback for him academically."

"I'm really proud of our guys," said Pitino.

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