Louisville (19-5) picked up their fifth lost of the season to Notre Dame in 5 over times in a game that started on Saturday night, but ended well past midnight. When you break down all the losses, one stat stands out above the others.
The Cardinals need to improve their free throw shooting, especially from the front court. Louisville is 80-128 (.625) in the five defeats. The missed free throws could have easily been the difference considering UofL’s losses have been by a combined 21 points; average of 4.2 per game. On the season, Louisville is making 69.7 percent of their free throws.
Duke beat Louisville by 5 points, the same amount of FT misses (9-14). While perfection is not expected, a couple more makes could have changed the game. The charity stripe issues were the difference in the 68-70 loss to Syracuse when the Cards made just 13-20 (.650). Louisville then traveled to Villanova and connected on just 12-24 (.500) in a 64-73 shocker. Against Georgetown, UofL made an acceptable 16-22 (.727) from the line, but could have used a couple more in the 51-53 loss. Louisville’s 18 misses in the 101-104 loss against Notre Dame in 5 OTs stood out most. The Cards were 30-48 (.625) and the Irish were 33-49 (.673).
The Cardinals have just two players in the rotation that shoot a over 70 percent. Peyton Siva shoots an outstanding 86.9 (53-61) percent and Russ Smith connects 80.7 (117-145) percent of the time. It is a significant drop to the third best FT shooter on the team which is Luke Hancock at 69.2 percent. Siva and Smith’s success inflates the overall team percentage.
The big guys is where improvement can be made. Gorgui Dieng is shooting 68.2 and Wayne Blackshear is knocking down 67.5 percent of attempts. Chane Behanan needs to definitely focus on getting better. Behanan is shooting an awful 53.7 percent. Shaquille O’Neal who struggled at the line, finished his NBA career as a 52.7 percent shooter. Opponents used a “Hack-a-Shaq” tactic and Louisville’s may start a “Hack-a-Chane” if he can’t improve. Behanan shoots a great 50 percent from the field which makes the tactic appealing. Behanan is second on the team in free throw attempts behind Smith. Behanan has been sent to the line 95 times. It doesn’t help that Behanan’s backup off the bench Montrezl Harrell is even worse. Harrell averages just 51.3 percent from the freebie line.
It is amazing that such great athletes can’t consistently connect 70 percent of the time. If the Louisville front court players aren’t spending quality time practicing free throws, it is time they start.