The Cardinals took those words to heart and played one of their finest first halves of the season Wednesday night, bouncing back from back-to-back losses, on their way to a 94-57 win over Oral Roberts.
"It was really a good first half for us. The second half was okay, but the first half was very good because the ball movement was great on offense and that's what we're looking for. The defense was terrific too," said Pitino, before expounding on his decision to pipe in his pre-game speech. "I felt we needed motivation for our fans, and we needed motivation for our team."
UofL (6-3) set season-highs in first-half points (52), turnovers forced (21) and assists (26) in front of 18,868 fans, many of whom were treated to Pitino talking to his team in the locker room live before tip-off.
"Coach Pitino is a great motivator," senior guard Edgar Sosa said. "Like he said there's teams that are 9-0, 10-0 that haven't hit their bumps yet. We hit ours, now it's time to win some games."
Sosa scored a season-high 18 points, making 7 of 13 shots (including 4 of 8 from three-point range, to lead four in double figures while also dishing out five assists. Sophomore center Samardo Samuels added 17 points, boosted by 11 of 12 free throw shooting, and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile senior guard Jerry Smith, in his second game back from an Achilles injury, scored 14 points and also combined with Sosa and freshman forward Rakeem Buckles on the highlight-play of the night.
"Our defensive intensity (was the difference)," said Smith, who was 6 of 9 from the field and also corralled five rebounds. "Everybody came with it, we were going to stop them tonight."
As has been the case in recent games the Cards started slowly. They were tied 10-10 with the Golden Eagles (6-6), the preseason No. 2 pick in the Summit League, after the first five minutes.
But then UofL broke it open.
The Cards used runs of 13-0 and 11-0, sandwiched around an Oral Roberts' basket, to take command. Sosa scored eight straight in the initial surge, sandwiching a rebound basket between a pair of threes.
Michael Craion's layup - the Golden Eagles' first basket in nearly three minutes - ended UofL's first run. But the Cards started another one moments later when freshman guard Peyton Siva scored off an assist from sophomore center Terrence Jennings. Jennings followed that up with back-to-back baskets on his way to finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and one blocked shot off the bench.
"He played well, but he still needs to block anything in there," Pitino said of Jennings. "He can really be a great shot-blocker and he doesn't understand that. He's another one that if he wants to get paid some day in this game he needs to block shots and rebound. If he wants to score in this game, he'll play in Russia."
Smith finished the second surge with five straight points - on a three-pointer and a layup. Louisville hit a brief lull, then went on an 11-2 run late in the half. Sosa scored eight of those points on a layup and a pair of threes. Sosa scored 16 in the first half, when the Cards shot 55.6 percent (20 of 36) and had assists on all but four of their field goals. Junior guard Preston Knowles led the way at intermission with seven assists.
"The passing was great in the first half tonight and it was like last year, inside-outside, dribble and quick pass," said Pitino, whose team also forced 15 first-half turnovers and converted those into 27 points.
The second half was all academic, but it was highlighted by Sosa's alley-oop that seemed to be caught, and dunked, by both Smith and Buckles. Buckles got credit for the basket.
"I guess we both should get a point," Smith joked afterward.
Forward Dominique Morrison scored 17 points to lead Oral Roberts, whose namesake passed away Tuesday.
"This is my 11th year and this is about as poorly as we've ever played," said Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton, whose team came in having beaten both Missouri and Stanford. "I think it's the worst defeat I've had in 11 years. The teams my first two years weren't very good. (But) I have to give credit to Louisville, they made us play that way. We knew coming in that we couldn't turn the basketball over and we had 15 turnovers in the first half , and that was the difference."
Louisville next hosts Western Kentucky at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Billy Minardi Classic.