LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
Basketball fans in Louisville have had the wind knocked out of them with the Cardinals being punched in the gut this week.
The fifth-ranked Cardinals have lost back-to-back games since entering last weekend as the nation's top-ranked team. Louisville travels to Georgetown on Saturday looking to bounce back from its latest setback and avoid dropping three in a row for the first time since January 2010.
"Anytime you play in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or any great conference," coach Rick Pitino said Thursday, "you're going to have peaks and you're going to have valleys, unless you have one of those great basketball teams that dominates the conference - which is not the case in college basketball this year.
"That being said, what I try to emphasize is just getting better execution-wise leading into March, just playing our best basketball at that time. Keep working on the execution and good things will happen."
Finishing has been a problem in Louisville's losses to then-No. 6 Syracuse - which upset the Cardinals (16-3, 4-2 Big East) at home last Saturday 70-68 - and at Villanova on Tuesday. The 73-64 loss to the struggling Wildcats was especially frustrating for Pitino because of his team's poor performance at the free-throw line.
The Cardinals trailed the Wildcats by as many as 10 points in the first half before rallying to take a 52-46 lead with 8:25 remaining. Villanova closed with a 27-14 run, helped by Louisville's 7 of 18 free-throw shooting, including missing five of its final six.
Sophomore forward Chane Behanan had an especially rough game, hitting just 3 of 9 from the line, and junior Gorgui Dieng missed both of his second-half attempts.
"I do have concern about our power forwards and what they're shooting from the foul line," Pitino said of Behanan and freshman Montrezl Harrell, who are hitting 54.2 percent and 51.5 percent on free throws.
"Anytime they're shooting in the 50 percentile that bothers me, so we have to work on that."
Louisville's poor free-throw shooting was part of the reason it lost its last matchup with the Hoyas. The then-No. 4 Cardinals shot 58.8 percent from the line in a 71-68 home defeat Dec. 28, 2011, their third straight in this series.
Georgetown (13-4, 3-3) was ranked in all three of those wins, and it enters this meeting after posting a 63-47 victory at No. 24 Notre Dame on Monday.
"We have to continue to get better," said coach John Thompson III, whose team lost 61-58 at South Florida last Saturday. "How would I sum us up? We weren't good the other night. We were good tonight. Hopefully we'll be good the next night."
The Hoyas are 2-1 against Top 25 teams this season, with the only loss coming in overtime to then-No. 1 Indiana on Nov. 20. They are 9-1 at home and will be facing a Cardinals team in the midst of playing four of six on the road. After this matchup, Louisville hosts Pittsburgh and Marquette before traveling to Rutgers and Notre Dame.
Each upcoming opponent except Rutgers has either been ranked or received votes in the poll this season. Still, Pitino's concern is his Cardinals putting their last loss behind them.
"We move on and get ready to face a very tough Georgetown team," he said.