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Louisville's Offense Shows it's Still a Work in Progress Against Michigan State

The offensive end of the court has been slow to develop to start the season for the Cardinals, and it was on full display in their loss at the Spartans.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Heading into the season, it was hard to find any on-court storyline surrounding the Louisville men's basketball program that didn't somehow revolve around the new-look offense.

Following a 2020-21 campaign that sported a painfully slow and inefficient offense, as well as no NCAA Tournament berth, head coach Chris Mack wanted to make changes. He brought in Ross McMains, know in international circles as a an offensive tactician, and a plethora of newcomers - mainly three-point shooters - to help run the new high-tempo offense.

So far, the Cardinals aren't having much issue with the pace part of the offense. As it currently stands, the offense has the 26th-ranked tempo according to KenPom, a far cry from the their 246th ranking last season. But, as for everything else, it still has a ways to go.

In Wednesday night's 73-64 loss at Michigan State, Louisville just simply could not string together consistent offense. The Cardinals shot just 41.0 percent from the floor, connected on only seven of their 27 three-point attempts, and coughed the ball up 16 times while assisting on just 10 of their 25 made field goals.

"We've got to be able to figure out how to get the basketball in the lane efficiently, so that we can get to the free throw line, so that we can open up even better looks that we're getting from the three point line, and we got to make some layups," head coach Chris Mack said. It was his first game back from a university-mandated suspension.

Part of the reason for the lackluster offensive performance was due to questionable shot selection. There were multiple three-point attempts in transition that continued to clank off the rim, and a handful of missed layups down in the paint, among others.

"I think we have to get cleaner looks. I think we have to get better looks," he said. "Obviously, not every one of them are the same. You're gonna have some looks where you'll take it, and then you'll have some looks that - because we couldn't execute well enough to get a better shot - we took one that probably was a little bit lower percentage."

Mack doesn't think the poor shot selections can be attributed to selfish play, but simply, just a plain lack of execution. He went as far to say that there's "a few guys on the team that need to know our stuff better", and that a large majority of the players "have to execute our stuff better". Graduate transfer guard Jarrod West seemed to agree.

"I feel like we didn't really do the best job of executing what our game plan was offensively, West said. "There were times where we just weren't following the game plan. There were times where some guys are trying to break off of the offense. There were times where we weren't playing at the pace that we need to play at."

Plus, throughout much of the game, Michigan State was simply the more physical team - at least on one end of the court. Louisville was able carry over their defensive efforts from their Bahamas Championship, forcing 19 Michigan State turnovers. But offensively, it was a different story.

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"Sometimes Michigan State was just too physical for us (on offense)," West said "Whether we set up our cuts, use our screens well, whatever the case is.

"But it's all part of things that we can do to get better. We control those things. We can get better and all those things, and I think we will with time."

Of course, some credit is absolutely due to Michigan State. Coming into the matchup, the Spartans had the No. 2 defense in the nation according to KenPom. Plus, it was Louisville's first true road game not only of the season, but against a full road crowd since before COVID.

But, Mack isn't using that as an excuse.

"I think that perception vs. reality is different than than what we see in our practice facility," he said. "I feel like it's been normal ever since we've come back for the first summer session in June." 

Louisville will stay on the road for one more game before coming back home, traveling to Raleigh, N.C. for a matchup against NC State this Saturday.

(Photo of Noah Locke: Nick King - Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

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