LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Seriously, folks. What do you write about this?
That’s not just a lead. It’s a real question. I’m crowdsourcing. I haven’t seen anything like this. This isn’t just poor basketball, it’s supernaturally poor. And I almost feel guilty even talking about it.
Compared to this, the death penalty would have been a favor.
Don’t stare at the poor team, kids, just be grateful for what you have.
No. 21-ranked Texas Tech beat Louisville in the second game of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday, the Cardinals’ fifth straight loss to start the season and their second straight by at least 25 points.
For about 10 minutes, it was respectable, then Louisville fell apart. They went a 10-minute stretch without scoring, the last 4 minutes of the first half and first 6 of the second. At the end of the drought, they were down 45-13.
Louisville had 4 first-half made baskets and 8 first-half turnovers. In the end, Louisville’s total was the fewest points scored by the program since March 7, 1981, when they scored 42 against Cincinnati. But that was in a win. And it was four years before the shot clock.
Coming into this season, Kenny Payne famously said he wasn’t going to view games as win or lose, but as win or learn. By that standard, the Cardinals are on their way to becoming the smartest team in the country. Louisville is the first ACC team to start 0-5 since 1960, and scored fewer than 40 points in a game for the first time since 1948.
Louisville falls to Texas Tech and is 0-5. Among 1,521 high-major (P5, Big East, AAC, A10, MWC, WCC) seasons since 2011, Louisville is the first team with more than 80 turnovers and fewer than 40 assists in their first five games. The Cardinals have 90 turnovers and 36 assists. pic.twitter.com/550s3n3WKn
— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) November 22, 2022
If you’re a Cardinals’ fan, it hurts too much to laugh and you’re too old to cry. Most of you. I hope. The thought of children watching this is painful. These games ought to come with a parental advisory.
So what can be done? Here’s the conflict. Kenny Payne says every day, he’s trying to build a culture. He’s trying to establish a way of doing this.
The problem is, the culture he has coached under is that you assemble the best players available, pump them up, keep them positive, get them playing hard, and hope talent wins out in the end.
At Louisville, he doesn’t have the best players. No amount of encouragement is going to change that. You can change the culture all you want, but if you don’t have a point guard, it’s going to be rough going.
On Tuesday, it was more of the same. As the next stretch of games promises to be. Still, he told Bob Valvano on his Learfield Sports Bob Drexler coaches’ corner postgame show on ESPN Radio, there were lessons to draw.
“The lesson was, you don’t have to be the most siled team if you’ve got fight,” Payne said. “Texas Tech is a great defensive team. And they are skilled players, but that’s not why they’re winning games. That’s not why their program is where they are. They are one of the Top 25 teams in the country because they get after you . They impose their will. And they say forget our skill. I hope we walk away understanding that there is a fight, there is a toughness that is required. There’s an execution part of this that is required. There’s a mental toughness that’s required to be a winning player and to be a winning team. And go back to this, and you know, some people may look at me and say I’m crazy, the best offensive teams are going to be the best passing teams, and we’ re struggling passing the ball to each other. And it’s killing us. We’re struggling to get guys off the boards and rebound the ball with two hands and playing with confidence and posting up with toughness, and doing the things it takes to be a winning program. But we’re going to keep plugging away. But I still … walk away saying, ‘Guys, there are good teams out there that you can beat, if you fight.’ Arkansas was a good team and we proved that we could hang with them the first half, then we let go. But you have to be mentally tough. Tonight we played a team well again in the first half. We did some good things. But as the game went on, they imposed their will. And they kept defending us and we kept having bad angles to make passes and they kept getting turnovers on us.”
Louisville committed 18 turnovers that led to 18 Texas Tech points. The Cards shot just 22 percent for the game and made just 3 of 18 three-pointers. They were outrebounded 45-29. In two games in Maui, they have now led for less than 2 1/2 minutes. That is the mathematics of defeat.
And here’s the problem. Losing can dominate a culture once it sets in. You can’t get very far creating a new culture if you’re losing. Players lose faith in you. They get discouraged. They free-lance. They quit. Negativity spreads like wildfire. It feeds on itself.
Payne, and I know he doesn’t want to do this, because I heard him talk about it before the season, is hoping not to opt for easy expedients just for the sake of winning early. And yet, he needs to win early — or at least to stop losing so much so soon and in such stunning ways.
Nothing good is served by losing games on national television and having the entire college basketball world talk about how bad you are. That in itself can have a chilling effect on recruiting.
Louisville’s coaches are going to have to shelve whatever philosophy is prevailing now and come up with a way to compete. Install some sets. Get the right players the ball in the right places. Shorten up the game. Muck up the game. Change defenses and eat up time. Win ugly, but win.
This isn’t Norman Dale being stubborn to break players down. This is trying to win a game so that players feel good about things to take the next step, and the next one. Until you can find Jimmy Chitwood in the transfer portal or something.
A couple more things. Everybody knew that Louisville was going to struggle this season. But they shouldn’t be struggling this much. They’re bad, but not this bad. Suggesting that they be given better tools to compete is not caving in to expediency. It’s acknowledging the human need not to get one’s tail kicked every night.
Second, what you’re seeing on the court, it’s not necessarily what Payne is teaching. These coaches know basketball and know good basketball. They know fundamental basketball. But for whatever reason, it isn’t hitting home with this group of players.
We’re approaching the point when the reason doesn’t matter anymore to most fans. In fact, we’re probably already there.
The fact of the matter is, getting players to listen to instruction and put it into action is as much a part of coaching as anything else.
I hate this for everyone. For Payne. For those players who have been through a lot. And for fans, who are angry at everybody. There will be better days. If only because they can’t get much worse.
In the meantime, expect Payne to remain calm and positive. And that’s no small thing in this world, in his situation.
“I’m not changing,” he told Valvano. “I’m not discouraged. I would like for us to fight harder and fight longer, but I’m encouraged by guys still willing to, you know, not just give up. They still got after it and fought all the way through the end, even the guys at the very end of the game. They fought. We’ve just got to do it consistently for 40 minutes.”
Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.