After winning seven of their first nine ACC games, No. 12 Louisville has hit a rough patch in its season. One day after it was announced that starting guard Chris Jones was suspended indefinitely by head coach Rick Pitino, the Cardinals lost 69-59 at Syracuse Wednesday night and there were problems on both ends of the floor.
As a team Louisville shot 42.6% from the field and 6-for-20 from beyond the arc, with Terry Rozier needing 18 shots to score a team-high 17 points. In total three Cardinals scored in double figures, with Montrezl Harrell adding 15 and freshman Quentin Snider 13. But that wasn’t enough, as Wayne Blackshear went scoreless and the bench was able to produce just six points with four coming from Anas Mahmoud.
With that offensive production more was needed on the defensive end of the floor, and the effort just wasn’t there. Without Jones, the guard who sets the tone for them defensively, the Cardinals had to dial things down pressure-wise and that led to Syracuse getting too much room to operate. Remove Trevor Cooney, who shot 1-for-10, and the other Syracuse players combined to shoot 21-for-37 (56.8%) from the field overall.
Also of note is the fact that Syracuse committed just seven turnovers, a number that’s far too low for a Pitino-coached team regardless of who’s out of the lineup. And according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the lack of activity on the defensive end was a topic of conversation following the game.
They aren’t talking enough on defense. They aren’t working together enough on defense. Maybe it’s time for a team meeting.
“I’m going to talk to (Montrezl Harrell). I’m going to call a team meeting for us, just for the players,” Rozier said. “We have to figure out something we have to do to come together on defense … There’s too much individual (stuff) from the defensive standpoint. We’re not talking enough. We’re not going to win games if our defense is not together.”
How long Jones will be away from the team remains to be seen, but regardless of his status the Cardinals have some important issues to address. The problem? When it comes to both getting consistent production from Blackshear and creating more turnovers defensively, these are issues that Pitino’s had to deal with all season long. And solutions have yet to be found.
The good news for Louisville is that three of their final five games are at home, with the road games being at Georgia Tech and Florida State. But this doesn’t look like a confident basketball team right now, and that’s a concern as the season edges closer to March.