Pitino looking for better play on defense

Louisville scored a combined 177 points in the Red-White intra-squad scrimmage last Sunday at Freedom Hall. Apparently, that was too much offense and not enough defense for Rick Pitino's liking.

"I'm not real happy with the way our team is playing defense right now," Pitino said.

What Pitino wassn't happy about is that his team comprised of veteran returning starters Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Earl Clark allowed freshmen Samardo Samuels and Jared Swopshire to score a combined 57 points in Sunday's Red-White scrimmage, including 36 – many of which came on dunks - from the 6-foot-8 Samuels. Samuels Red team won the game 97-80. Each team scored 50 points inside the paint.

"Our guys were afraid of Samardo Samuels the other night. They got out of his way," said Pitino. "He's a freshman. What are they going to do with (Pittsburgh's) (Dejuan) Blair and the young man from Syracuse (Arinze Onuku) and (Hasheem) Thabeet? Are they going to ask for a sub because they're too big? You don't scare people with your rankings - you've got to play defense."

Pitino is eager to see how Samuels performs against Georgetown's frontcourt Saturday in Louisville's first exhibition of the 2008-09 season.

"That White team played like the Washington Generals against Globetrotters," Pitino said. "It will be much more difficult for (Samuels) to get the ball in this game – much more realistic than the dunk-fest he had the other night."

"That was an extremely disappointing (defensive) performance to allow a bunch of freshmen to blow them out by 20 points," Pitino added.

Samuels will face first 'real' opponent
on Saturday.

Specifically, Pitino wasn't happy about the ease with which Samuels was able to get the ball in the post in the Cardinals first scrimmage. In challenging his team's defensive intensity publicly, Pitino's hoping to see some quick improvement against Georgetown.

"There are three or four things you want to do defensively," Pitino said. "You want to limit the number of three's taken by the other team; you want to challenge all two-point shots; and you want to protect the paint with your defense. And they did a very poor job of protecting the paint.

"Then conversely they took ill-advised, challenged shots which led to uncontested fast breaks by the Red team. I would have thought they had all the freshmen."

Pitino believes senior forward Terrence Williams will help the Cards elevate their play on defense when he returns from a knee injury in the next few weeks. Williams won't play against the Tigers but should return to practice next week. Williams is expected to be ready for UofL's season opener November 22 against Morehead State.

"There's no urgency for defense and that's a sign of all great teams – an urgency to stop people," said Pitino. "I'm hoping that when T-Will comes back we'll get that defensive leadership we need to become a much better basketball team because it was not evident the other night. It was very disappointing.

"There's a lot of talent out there and a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket. But that doesn't mean you're going to win. You've got to play great defense. Every team that excels has to play great defense. I am surprised at their lack of urgency to get better on defense. I'm hoping T-Will returning will make a difference. He's not only a great defensive player (but) he truly understands how important defense is."

Georgetown should provide a solid test for Louisville defensively. There's no doubting the Tigers can score after knocking off their first opponent – Ohio State-Mansfield – 133-32. One of the nation's elite NAIA programs, Georgetown finished 35-1 last season, with its lone loss coming in the NAIA national semifinals.

"They're a pressing team and a running team and they do a very good of keeping the ball out of the low-post because of the way they front the low-post," Pitino said. "So it will be a very good challenge for our players to get the ball to the right places on the court and read the defense."

The Tigers also shouldn't be in awe of playing the nation's third-ranked team at home after facing the Cardinals in Freedom Hall the past two years. Louisville sneaked by Georgetown 94-92 in 2006 and won 93-66 last season.

"They have Division 1 talent at the forward and guard positions," said Pitino. "Georgetown may come in here and kick our butts. We'll find out Saturday where we are defensively."

Cardinal Authority Top Stories