Louisville fans flew high Saturday evening due to the football team’s performance, but came crashing down after a loss to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne in basketball Sunday afternoon. Optics of this are not great and the loss caught national attention. The disappointment hit the fan base hard on what should have been a Monday filled with optimism. Kenny Payne asked for patience after the game and here are a few ways we can find our patience. But first let’s discuss a few takeaways from the game:
- Louisville looked confused on defense. Coach Kenny Payne talked about communication being a big issue. That was evident on the court because players did not want to switch on defense and were not in position to play help defense.
- From my perspective, the returning players are having trouble adjusting to the play style Kenny Payne wants them to play. For example, when Coach Mack was at the helm for the Cardinals, he ran pack-line defense most of the time.
- Coach Payne runs a man-to-man defense, and this defensive adjustment left them out of position and disoriented.
- As a side note, pack-line defense aims to limit dribble penetration in the key, while man-to-man defense puts the pressure on the primary ball defender while the other defenders cut off the passing lanes.
The lack of effort and confusion makes it easy for spectators and reporters to criticize the players, especially with all the hype surrounding the program upon Kenny Payne’s arrival. But Cardinal Nation knows what this roster is capable of. For example, seniors El Ellis and Sydney Curry are two high-level ACC performers who have proven their abilities on the hardwood time and time again.
Red-shirt junior Jaelyn Withers is also another scoring option and someone who looked different in the way he carried himself. He finished the game with 20 points against the Bears and dribbled with confidence and without hesitation. Jaelyn continues to prove himself as someone who could be a consistent contributor as well.
Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is another player who proved he could contribute at the Power Five level last year in the SEC. The Tennessee transfer was not always someone who strung together good games, but has been reinvigorated on the Cardinals.
The on-court performance we saw on Sunday afternoon is not definitive of the level of play we will see for the remainder of the season. Patience is found in the process. Coach Payne was not hoping to begin his inaugural season as the Cardinals Head Coach in the losing column, but this is a process. The players will become more comfortable with what he requires of them and that will be reflected on the court.
The collective excitement level plummeted after that loss on Sunday. For me personally, I walked out of the Yum Center frustrated, matching the emotions of the rest of the crowd. Exiting the game as the rain was coming down was the most poetic way to cap off the loss.
Louisville basketball fans didn’t even get to enjoy the high from the decimation of Wake Forest too long with this exhibition loss.
All of that said, this result will not be reflective of the entire season. Sure, I am nervous of what could come next, but I know there was logic to the optimism fans felt at the beginning of the year. There is only one way to go up from here. Louisville is set to take on Chaminade in their second and last exhibition game this Thursday against Chaminade.