Louisville coach Kenny Payne called his team’s 71-68 exhibition loss to Division II Kentucky Wesleyan on Monday “unacceptable” as the Cardinals flunked a preseason test ahead of Payne’s second regular season leading the program. The outcome was particularly concerning on the heels of a 4-28 debut campaign for Payne — a legendary former Louisville player — last season.
“Hopefully, we learn from this,” he said. “All of us, coaches, myself and players because it’s not acceptable to go out and the other team is more physical than you, plays harder than you, plays tougher than you, as if you don’t understand what this is.”
Kentucky Wesleyan outscored Louisville 18-2 in second-chance points behind a 16-5 edge in offensive rebounds, prompting Payne’s ire ahead of the team’s opener against UMBC on Monday.
“Are you really going to beat teams with your talent? Or are you going to beat teams with the work ethic, with the toughness, with the fight?” Payne asked. “We can’t beat teams with talent, we’re never going to be the most talented team. But we can beat them with fight.”
Louisville was clearly the most talented team in the exhibition loss, however. Kentucky Wesleyan finished 15-14 last season and was picked to finish eighth of 13 teams in the Great Midwest Conference preseason coaches poll released last week.
Only seven of Louisville’s baskets in the loss came on assists, and Payne was frustrated by a lack of paint touches for the Cardinals’ bigs as KWU bested Louisville 26-22 in paint points. It was Louisville’s second exhibition game after it beat Simmons College of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association 91-50 on Oct. 18.
“The disconnect is understanding fully how hard that you’ve got to practice, how hard you’ve got to play, how desperate you have to be defensively,” Payne said. “The disconnect is other teams are good. I knew going into this game that it was going to be a tough game. We needed it to be a tough game, because we need to know exactly how hard we’ve got to play against good talent.”