Pitino: Passing key to offensive woes

Louisville struggled offensively in the first half against Kentucky, making just five field goals in the first 20 minutes against the Wildcats. Tuesday, Rick Pitino said improved passing was the key to fixing his team's offensive problems.

For most of the season, Louisville's offense has been ahead of its defense.

But those roles reversed Saturday at Rupp Arena. While Louisville's normally reliable offense sputtered in the first half, it was a stingy defense that kept the Cardinals in the game. Despite shooting just 17 percent in the first half, Louisville trailed third-ranked Kentucky by only eight going to the locker room – a credit to a defense that forced the Wildcats into 10 of 30 shooting in the first 20 minutes.

"We played really good defense in the first half and put ourselves in a position where we could have won the game," Pitino said. "But we didn't and that's pretty much it."

Louisville made only 5 of 29 first half shots against Kentucky, including just 1 of 7 three's. Pitino said Tuesday that his team's struggles offensively were partly due to Kentucky's defense; partly the Cardinals poor ball movement. Louisville had only five assists in the 71-62 loss to the Wildcats.

"It was a combination of both," Pitino said. "They played good defense but we still have to improve our passing. We had some openings and just did not take it and got distracted. I thought Preston had quite a few forced shots and he got caught up in the emotion of the game."

Louisville needs better play from Samardo Samuels in the Big East.
Knowles, who was 1 of 8 from the field, wasn't the only Cardinal who struggled offensively against Kentucky. Only Reggie Delk and Terrence Jennings shot better than 50 percent from the floor against the Wildcats. And those two only attempted a combined six shots, making four.

"When you're in that type of environment sometimes....there were unusual circumstances that started the game off," Pitino said. "It wasn't your normal offensive flow. We started out cutting and getting fouled and all of a sudden a maylay broke out."

Pitino said his team must improve its passing, particularly the frontcourt players, if they want to improve offensively. For the season, Louisville is averaging 80.6 points and better than 16 assists per contest.

"[We] have to get better at passing," said Pitino. "We're not a great ball-handling team – it's average. We've got to get our bigs to pass the ball better because they have the ball a lot. We've always had good passing big men here and this group struggles in that area."

Through 14 games, starting center Samardo Samuels has just 16 assists. Reserve center Terrence Jennings has only four. Those two have combined for 36 turnovers.

"We work on it every day," Pitino said. "It's a matter of ball-faking, getting your footwork down, being able to pass away from the defense. Passing is a skill like shooting or dribbling – you've got to work at it."

Pitino blamed Louisville's poor three-point shooting in recent outings on the team's sub-par inside play. In their last three games against Radford, South Florida and Kentucky, the Cardinals haven't shot better than 29 percent from three-point range.

"It goes back to defense and our inside play hasn't been as good," said Pitino. "They [opponents] didn't have to really double the low-post at all."

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