After watching his team miss 12 of 24 free throws and lose a game it had no business losing, Louisville coach Rick Pitino compared his players' performance at the foul line in a 73-64 loss to Villanova to two notoriously bad free throw shooters in the NBA.
“It was really a simple answer to why we lost,” Pitino said. “Basically we were Dwight Howard or Shaquille O'Neal. We came down we had a six-point lead and it could have been eight. Could have kept coming down and extending it but our free throws were a turnover. Very simple answer for why we lost. Our foul shooting was despicable.”
Louisville made it to the Final Four last season despite some head-scratching performances throughout the regular season. After playing relatively consistently through the first half of this season, the Cardinals relapsed with another dud against the Wildcats, who had lost three straight.
Just a few days after losing their No.1 ranking following a home loss to Syracuse, the Cardinals fell apart in the second half and the misses from the free throw line seemed to add mounting pressure on each player who found himself there with the ball in his hands. Louisville entered the game shooting 71 percent at the line, not stellar but not worthy of comparison to O'Neal and Howard either.
Sophomore Chane Behanan, a career 59 percent free throw shooter, had the toughest night. He made just three of nine free throws and Villanova was smart to continue putting him on the foul line. Behanan had made six of his previous nine free throws over three games prior to facing Villanova.
Pitino said his team needs to get back in the gym and work on its problems after dropping its second straight. He said there is only so much coaches can do in the 20 hours a week they are allowed to spend working on basketball with players. While all of that is certainly true, Pitino might have been over reacting in the heat of the moment after a disappointing loss.
Many of these same players proved last year they were capable of putting bad outings behind them and playing well enough to contend for a national title. Remember the Cardinals scoring just 49 points in a loss to Syracuse or losing by 31 points to Providence last season? The guess here is this performance is less a sign of things to come and more of a bad outing.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said afterward he believes the win might have been a breakthrough moment for his team, but he still sees Louisville as a team that can win the nation title.
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