In the long run, most people expect Kenny Payne to succeed at Louisville. But his team has struggled so far, losing an exhibition to Lenoir-Rhyne and then 67-66 on Wednesday to Bellarmine.
That one hurt.
First, it was Payne’s first official game as Louisville’s head coach. And second, well, not to make this sound bad, it was Bellarmine. That’s not an insult; the Knights are usually quite solid.
Still, this is a school that is just a few years into D-1 - it won the A-Sun last year but cannot compete for the NCAA title - and it’s in town. Bellarmine and the ‘Ville are closer than Duke and UNC. You could reasonably run from Bellarmine to Louisville to play pickup and maybe run back after.
That also means that the Louisville kids are going to hear it from the Bellarmine kids, at parties and barbershops, for the rest of the year.
Bellarmine took the lead at 15-14 and Louisville, despite having several chances, never caught up.
Typically, we’d expect Bellarmine to launch more threes, but in this case, Louisville took 28, making 11.
Bellarmine shot 7-15 on threes.
They also held the powerful Sydney Curry to zero points and three rebounds.
That’s significant because places like Bellarmine don’t usually get players like Curry. The guy is powerful.
And it’s not like Louisville is lacking talent. It may not fit together very well yet, but they have some. They’re going to have to learn how to play with one another
On the bright side, Mike James, who missed last year with an Achilles injury, is back and played well.
So why did Payne scheduled a local team that could take his Cards? Well, this is what he said before the game: “As good as Bellarmine is, this is really going to be about us. How focused are we? How disciplined are we? How tough are we to do the things that we practice and work on every day? ... Of course, I want to win worse than anybody else in the world. But at the end of the day, it’s about these kids learning how hard you have to train every day, how hard you have to play in these games. You’re playing a team that really wants to beat you really bad, with a great coach. So, it’s really about them, they’re learning.”
Which is to say, that despite the poor defense, despite the hesitant offense Louisville has shown so far, this is a team with some players that have a lot to learn.
It’s not exactly analagous, but it reminds us of when Mike Krzyzewski came to Durham. It took him a few years to get his system fully in place.
The play isn’t pretty so far, but we’re impressed with Payne’s overall approach. We hope the fans don’t get impatient. He seems to be doing things the right way and after the last few years, Louisville needs that a lot more than it needs quick fixes.
Two games Thursday, but don’t get too excited: Lehigh visits Virginia Tech and Radford heads to the wilds of Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Thursday’s ACC Action
- Lehigh vs. Virginia Tech || 7:00 ACCN
- Radford vs. Notre Dame || 8:00 ACCN
- Inside Bellarmine’s locker room after its first-ever win over Louisville
- What Kenny Payne, Louisville Players Said After 67-66 Loss vs. Bellarmine
- Wieland, Pfriem help Bellarmine to upset of Louisville, first win vs. Power-5 as D-I team
- Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Mike James speak after Louisville’s loss to Bellarmine
- Bellarmine stuns Louisville as Kenny Payne’s debut ends with loss in cross-town matchup
- Kenny Payne speaks after Louisville’s season opening loss to Bellarmine
- Kenny Payne era at Louisville starts with 67-66 loss to Bellarmine
- Louisville basketball vs. Bellarmine: Kenny Payne era begins with loss