Rick Pitino wants second-ranked Louisville to put their best foot forward next week in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a Thanksgiving-week tournament in the Bahamas that features Duke, Missouri and Memphis. To do that, Pitino says his team must make dramatic improvement in the next two games, particularly in the rebounding department.
Chane Behanan can help improve Louisville's recent shortcomings in the rebounding department
Though Louisville eased past Manhattan 79-51 in their season-opener, the smaller Jaspers out-rebounded the Cardinals by four after maintaining a double digit margin on the boards for most of the contest. UofL also was out-rebounded in their exhibition win over Division II Bellarmine last week.
The problem? Louisville's players, according to the coach, don't rebound well outside of their areas. Pitino also says that small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock need to help pick up the slack on the glass.
As part of the solution, Pitino plans to show video of NBA-rebounding machine Kenneth Farried, whom UofL's coach calls the modern day Dennis Rodman.
"We're going to show them the next three day clips of him offensively and defensively rebounding the basketball," Pitino said. "Technique-wise he's as good as I've seen since Dennis Rodman."
Pitino doesn't expect his players to magically-moph into Faried-clones, but he is hoping his players will absorb some knowledge that they can apply on the court to help his team's work on the back boards. Though Pitino didn't talk specifics, he does plan to experiment with his lineup Thursday night against Samford, Louisville's opening round game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
"I'm going to tinker a little bit [against Samford]," Pitino said. "I'm going to try different things."
Louisville will play Miami (OH) Sunday, before heading to the Caribbean next week for three tough games at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Cardinals, who open the tourney against a tough Northern Iowa squad that returns four starters, must improve their rebounding quickly before playing three games in three days.
"We've got about one week to get ready and we're not ready to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis because we're not rebounding the ball well enough," Pitino said. "The basic reason why is we have a lot of guys who stay in their area and rebound and great rebounders have to go out of their area. So that's what we're working on the most is getting our players to go out of their area. Some of them are getting it, and obviously Chane [Behanan] is the best rebounder on the team. We know he can do it but we need to work on Gorgui [Dieng] and Montrezl [Harrell]. We're not getting very much out of the three position rebounding the basketball. So we've got to tinker a lot."
'We've got one week to get ready for a very good Northern Iowa team with four starters back that run all motion," added Pitino. "If we don't dramatically improve in the next two games we'll struggle in the Battle 4 Atlantis and we don't want to do that. We want to be ready."
Louisville primarily played man-to-man defense against Manhattan. Pitino is pleased with his team's play at that end of the court, but he's looking to incorporate some zone into the Cardinals arsenal defensively.
"I haven't put in a zone yet because we've been working so hard on our man defense and being ready offensively," Pitino said. "The more defenses you have the better chance you have of winning games because certain teams are weaker against zone than they are man. When you change out of timeouts you need it. You don't have to play a lot of it, but certain teams shoot 38 percent against zone and 47 percent against man."
While Pitino feels good about his team's defense, he's hoping a few key players, primarily forwards Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock, improve their play before UofL heads into their first major test of the season in the Bahamas.
"We're where we need to be defensively right now," Pitino said. "We're not as far along on player development where I want the players right now. Luke, Wayne, Chane they're not where I want them to be at right now. There are legitimate reasons why they're not ready -- Wayne is basically like a redshirt freshman and Luke just came off shoulder surgery. So they're not where I want them to be, but Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng [are] and Montrezl [Harrell] is a good freshman. They're all going to get a lot better, but we've got to cram a little because we're getting ready to play some stiff competition without a lot of preparation time."
Samford, who fell to Austin Peay 75-64 last weekend, shouldn't provide too much resistance for Louisville Thursday night. Samford starts three guards, and their tallest player, 6-8 forward Tim Williams, is the team's leading scorer (18 points) and rebounder (11).
"Samford is really well coached. They have great patterns in their offense," said Pitino. "Their ball movement is terrific, they play good defense and they run good stuff. The shoot it well at four positions and they shoot a lot of three's. They come in with a tenacious backup point guard who gets after you really hard."
Date: Thursday, Nov. 15
Time: 7:07 p.m. ET
Site: KFC Yum! Center/Crum Court, Louisville, Ky. (22,000)
TV: WHAS-TV (Ch. 11 in Louisville) will televise the game, with Drew Deener (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (color) calling the action. Coverage begins at 7 p.m.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) will broadcast the game, with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (color) calling the action.
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 128, XM 191 will broadcast the game.
Series History: This is the first meeting.
Officials: Michael Stephens, Evon Burroughs, Tim Clougherty
Next U of L Game: Sunday, Nov. 18 vs. Miami (Ohio) in KFC Yum! Center, 4 p.m. ET (WHAS-TV)
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