Unedited version of my column for tomorrow. It was a pretty bang-bang deadline, so I’ll post some additional thoughts on the blog in just a bit. There’s no headline on this, because I don’t do those . . .
NEW YORK — Rick Pitino was asked after last night’s 76-69 overtime loss to Pittsburgh if he was concerned entering the NCAA Tournament with two straight losses.
You could tell he didn’t care for the question.
“Obviously you don’t follow basketball very well,” he told the reporter who asked. “Because if you think it’s bad to lose at Georgetown in a hard-fought game and to Pittsburgh in overtime, then you don’t follow basketball very much. I think they’re too terrific basketball teams that played better than us down the stretch.
“So if that’s a concern for you it’s not a concern for me. So you worry about it. Go home and lose a lot of sleep over it. Promise me.”
Now, I’m with Pitino this far. Losing at Georgetown with a shot to win or tie at the buzzer is no disgrace. And losing to Pitt in Madison Square Garden isn’t either. Ask Duke.
But I’ve also got to say this — when your guards shoot 3 for 23 against Pittsburgh one game after going 2 for 15 at Georgetown, it’s not exactly a Sominex situation.
In fact, I might tend to go the other direction — that those 33 clangs against the rims from U of L guards in the past two games might sound suspiciously like an alarm clock.
Everybody has their favorite things to do if they’re frequent visitors to New York City. See the Empire State Building. Hang out in Central Park. Check out Times Square. Get bounced out of the Big East Tournament by Pitt.
Sorry. You know whose list that last one came off of. Pitt now has punched U of L’s ticket home for a third straight season. But this loss had nothing to do with history.
It had to do with this — Pitt’s guards scored the team’s final 10 points in overtime. U of L’s guards scored 12 points the whole game.
One of the hottest plays on Broadway is titled “Jersey Boys.” U of L debuted its own version just off Broadway with New Jersey natives Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter spearheading a powerful post attack. Clark slammed home 19 points. Caracter added 11.
“I thought our frontcourt played well,” Pitino said. “Then they started taking away our frontcourt, and we threw it out and had difficulty scoring from that point on. Generally we don’t.”
Generally, Pitino has enough guys to throw out there that somebody will be on. One night Andre McGee, another Jerry Smith, maybe Edgar Sosa. Or maybe Terrence Williams will have a good perimeter night.
Last night, nobody did. Sosa made ill-advised drives into traffic. Williams tried runners and leaners and bangers on his way to 2 for 10 shooting. After two particularly bad shots on back-to-back possessions in overtime allowed Pitt to get some distance, Pitino had seen enough and pulled Williams.
U of L doesn’t have a single perimeter threat who is a lock to deliver night after night. It relies a lot on hope — the hope that somebody in the crowd will be on.
That’s going to be a major hope heading into the NCAA Tournament. Last night, the Cardinals may have clanged their way down to a No. 4 seed, though they could still take a three.
And while that may not be worrisome to Pitino, it’s going to cause some rather significant sleep disorder in Cardinal Nation.
Pitino said last night that there wasn’t anything wrong with his guards’ shooting. They got good shots, they just didn’t go down. But I sat behind McGee for a pair of his threes and he seemed to jump sideways. Smith is flat struggling. He’s 4-for-27 overall in his past three games.
This isn’t a great outside shooting team. But until the past couple of games, it has been good enough. After watching these past two, however, look for opposing defenses to make the Cardinal guards prove they’re more than good enough to get this team back on a roll.