Rutgers struggles with Louisville's press in loss
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)
The Scarlet Knights committed a season-high 19 turnovers and squandered an early lead in an 83-76 loss to Louisville in a foul-marred game on Saturday night.
''I just thought Louisville had spurts in their pressure defense that just had us rattled,'' Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. ''They did a good job coming out and pursuing. They challenge you to finish. There are times to break the press and finish, then there are times to break the press and be organized and run the offense, and we got caught in between, not knowing which one to do.''
Louisville coach Rick Pitino went to the press with his team struggling in the first half, and it fueled a 31-11 run bridging halftime. The surge turned a 29-26 deficit into a 57-40 lead.
''At first it was kind of tough to get used to, but we picked it up in the second half,'' said Craig Brown, who scored a career-high 17 points for Rutgers. ''We kind of changed the offense around a little bit.''
When asked what they did, Brown smiled sheepishly.
''We didn't change anything, we just stuck to the game plan,'' the junior college transfer said. ''We were going to our own stuff and it wasn't working. Coach kind of addressed that and we got back to the game plan.''
Besides the press, the difference in the game was Louisville's free-throw shooting. Normally a 65 percent team from the line, it made 41 of 46 foul shots. The 41 made free throws set a school record for any conference game, breaking the old mark of 39 against Virginia Tech in 1986.
''We don't usually shoot that well,'' Pitino said with a smile. ''We really don't.''
Russ Smith had 15 of Louisville's final 23 points, making 11 free throws down the stretch for the Cardinals (13-2, 2-0 American Athletic Conference).
Luke Hancock added 15 points, Terry Rozier had a career-high 14 and Wayne Blackshear 13 for Louisville, which beat Rutgers for the 12th time in 13 games.
Myles Mack had 19 points for the Scarlet Knights (7-8, 1-1), who had won three in a row. Kadeem Jack had 12.
''I think they're very physical,'' Pitino said. ''They play very hard. I think Eddie Jordan was almost the perfect hire. I'm happy they got him. He's gonna do a great job. He's not only a great player, great guy, great coach. Rutgers will turn around with him at the helm because they'll take great pride in their program.''
The game featured 62 personal fouls and lasted more than 2 1/2 hours.
While Louisville won, Pitino had to endure a frustrating final 15 minutes while his team made dumb mistakes, took bad shots and turned the ball over, with the final court being a season-high 17.
Four players - two from each team - fouled out and seven more finished with four fouls.
Louisville, which was finishing a four-game road trip that started on Dec. 21, struggled at the start, falling behind by margins of 7-0 and 12-4.
It wasn't until the Cardinals started to employ their press that they started getting easy baskets. Rutgers turned the ball over a dozen times in the first half, leading to 16 points for Louisville and enough for a 39-33 edge despite shooting roughly 42 percent from the field.
Mack was the only consistent player in the first half, hitting 5 of 8 from the field for 13 points. Eight Cardinals scored in the opening 20 minutes.