The Cardinals' collective alarm clocks will be going off before the sun rises for a 6:15 a.m. practice in spite of their 80-48 victory over Stetson in front of 18,916 fans at Freedom Hall on Wednesday night. That's because UofL coach Rick Pitino set seven defensive goals for his team prior to the game against the Hatters, and the Cards only achieved one of those.
"It's tough to tell in this type of game whether we played well or didn't play well, (but) I think we played hard," Pitino said. "We wanted to keep them under 38 percent shooting field-goal percentage wise (Stetson shot 35.4 percent). We wanted to keep them under 30 from the three-point line, I think it was 33. We wanted to force 22-plus turnovers, we forced 18. We wanted 12 steals, which was very lofty, we had five. We wanted to keep them out of the arc around the basket, six or below, we had seven. We wanted 35 deflections, we had 33. I think a normal coaching staff that wins by 30 would say, ‘Okay, close enough don't worry about it.' But we're not normal."
"We were there on a lot of them, but we just didn't meet all the criteria," senior guard Edgar Sosa said. "I'd (normally) be getting up at 10 tomorrow, instead of 5:45."
It was a normal early-season blowout for UofL (5-1), which is ranked 18th in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and 20th in the AP Top 25. The Cards shot a season-high 61.7 percent (29 of 47) from the field and got a season-high 17 points from senior guard Jerry Smith and 15 more from Sosa, as both joined UofL's 1,000-point club. The two were pressed into more minutes with guards Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva sitting out with injuries.
"We were just trying to survive this game," Pitino said. "We had two guys out with an injury and Sosa with a bruised knee. We survived it and we should be healthy by Saturday. Edgar should be healthy as well."
Smith, who was 10 for 33 (30.3 percent) in his previous four games, made 6 of 8 shots and 4 of 5 free throws as he exhibited a new-found aggressiveness driving to the basket.
"Jerry came out and had a great game," Sosa said. "We kind of knew he would because the last two days he's played well in practice."
Some of that may have to do with the fact that Smith put in some extra practice after the Cards returned home from Saturday's loss at UNLV, in which Smith scored just nine points on 3 of 10 shooting in 30 minutes. He went to the Yum! Center around 10 p.m. Saturday night and put up 500 shots, taking a break after 250 to lift weights.
"I felt a lot better tonight," Smith said. "I'm going to continue to do it until I can get back on the right track."
Smith scored the Cards' first four points of the game - hitting 1 of 2 free throws, then converting an old-fashioned three-point play. The latter gave UofL a lead (at 4-3) it wouldn't relinquish.
Leading 13-10 a few minutes later the Cards reeled off 11 points in a row. Smith scored five in that span on a three-point play and a driving layup.
UofL added a 9-0 run late in the first half as it led 37-21 at intermission thanks to 58.3 percent shooting (14 for 24) and 10 points and four assists from Sosa and nine points from Smith.
Stetson (2-5) scored the first four points of the second half, but UofL answered with an 8-1 run. Smith capped the surge with a three-point play and a three-pointer.
The Cards cruised from there. The highlights of their second half romp (43-27) included a dunk by freshman reserve Stephan Van Treese, off an assist from Smith, and a three-pointer from senior Chris Brickley as the Cards connected on half of their shots (7 of 14) from long range.
A.J. Smith topped the Hatters with 18 points. Louisville hosts Charlotte at 7 p.m. Saturday in the second of eight straight home games.
"We're going to have a tough one on Saturday," Pitino said. "With this type of game coming back (after the UNLV loss) it's really good to see we got the ball inside, we'll work inside to out. But Saturday we're going to have to because Charlotte is a basketball team that we know really well. We know what they're all about offensively. We've got to really make sure that we focus on our defense. So tomorrow we're going to get up really early and go to work. The guys didn't get our goals, so we're going to get up at 6:15 tomorrow and go to work. They tried really hard, they just didn't get it."