Originally written on Louisville Card Game  |  Last updated 12/31/11

Life can get back to normal now but the basketball gods would not be pleased with this latest Bluegrass basketball classic — a game in which a winner could only be decided by the team that played less poorly than the other.

An awful exhibition of offense, with neither the University of Louisville or Kentucky demonstrating any ability to shoot when challenged by a good defensive team. UK winning primarily because of an overwhelming edge in rebounds and loose balls, and all of those additional trips to the foul line.

Louisville tense, tight and indecisive from the beginning. Blowing layups, hurrying shots, making silly decisions and inexplicable turnovers, along with awkward passes, all signs of a team playing not to lose. Whatever happened to playing loose when coming off a loss or competing as an underdog?

UK has an abundance of talent no doubt. With a team of seasoned players, this game might have been no contest.

Rick Pitino’s charges, as usual, over aggressive on defense, getting U of L in foul trouble quickly. The question is whether they would have hung around as long as they did without all the shoving, slapping and bumping? The officials can’t possibly call all the contacts that occur, something the UofL coach counts on, having figured that out a long time ago (in Lexington).

It’s becoming increasingly obvious with each game that Pitino has some major challenges on offense. He says play great defense and the offense will take care of itself.  That obviously wasn’t the case Saturday, with no rhyme, reason or purpose on offense, with scoring opportunities largely dependent upon defensive success.

That has got to change, opening the door for an offensive-minded player like Russ Smith to become a starter, maybe creating more opportunities for his teammates. Maybe, only Russ can decide that. The only thing certain is that Russ Smith will be aggressive on both ends of the court, too small to carry the team on his shoulders, but fearless when it comes to shooting.

One can’t help but wonder why Angel Nunez didn’t see the floor and why Kevin Ware saw so little playing time. Probably has to do with Pitino’s defensive mindset. Some of those Nunez rainbows were sorely needed. A rivalry game is where stars are often born, but it’s not going to happen when the potential is mired to the bench.

The other bright spot once again was Gorgui Dieng, with his six blocks and five rebounds. Too much of Anthony Davis for him on defense, managing only five points. Continuing to make progress, getting heavier and stronger, learning the moves, the Big East schedule will only make him better.

Gotta almost feel sorry for Peyton Siva, with the flack from U of L fans increasing with each new air ball that misses its target. Siva is not the same player he was before suffering a concussion early this season. We suspect he’s still recovering, and fans might want to keep that in mind.

This game confirmed more about Louisville than it revealed, things Pitino already knew needed fixing. Big East competition will provide plenty of opportunities to improve, and possibly another shot at UK down the road.

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