LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) — Seven games into his rookie season as a head basketball coach, David Padgett's hair is still jet black. But if Louisville's 32-year-old boss has to endure many more weeks like this one, he might turn prematurely gray.
For the second time in six days, Padgett felt No. 17 Louisville (5-2) was its own worst enemy in a defeat. On Tuesday, the Cards took Purdue down to the wire in their first road game before a handful of crucial mistakes in the last few minutes proved costly in a 66-57 loss. Sunday afternoon was a replay as No. 24 Seton Hall (7-1) pulled out a 79-77 victory in the KFC Yum! Center on Desi Rodriguez's short, off-balance bank shot on a drive to the lane with eight seconds remaining.
Louisville didn't have an answer for Rodriquez all day, so his game-winner was no surprise. The 6-foot-6 senior finished with 29 points, one short of his career high as Seton Hall snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cards and beat them on their home-court for the first time since 1952. Rodriquez also got eight rebounds, four steals and two assists.
The tough Bronx, N.Y., product hit 12-of-18 shots and would have eclipsed his career best if he hadn't uncharacteristically missed five of eight free throws after entering the game as a 77 percent foul shooter.
"We tried to switch defense on them and he just found the spots," Cardinals forward V.J. King said. "The focus was to try to force him right, but he got some good looks. We tried to be solid on him; he just made some shots."
Not that Rodriguez didn't have plenty of help as Seton Hall ended Louisville's 23-game home-court winning streak against non-conference opponents. Angel Delgado grabbed 13 rebounds to go with 10 points, Khadeen Carrington had 18 points and four assists and Myles Powell added 13 points.
But all Padgett wanted to talk about afterward was how his team had given away another game it easily could have won, noting that the Pirates converted 16 UofL turnovers — many of them careless and unforced — into 17 points.
"Turnovers are killing us," Padgett said. "I just told our players it's two games in a row now. We've worked too hard to shoot ourselves in the foot. What I mean by that is we work on defense, we get a stop, we get a rebound, and we come down and turn the ball over and give it right back to them."
Padgett used a football term, 'pick six,' which is an interception returned for a touchdown, to describe his team's shortcoming. The Pirates were credited with 11 steals, four more than UofL.
"It seems like most of our turnovers are what I call 'pick six's', where there is no defense for it," he said. "They get a back tip, we lose the ball, we do something, and we can't go down and set our defense, and they just score. We've just got to take better care of the basketball. Sixteen turnovers is too many for us.
"It's very, very frustrating because we're playing hard enough, and for the most part, well enough to win the game.It's hurting us right now, and we have to look at the film and correct it. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to turn this around in a hurry."
Three players accounted for 12 of the turnovers, with Ray Spalding Deng Adel and King committing four apiece.
"Down the stretch we made some careless ones that really cost us and it's kind of the same thing we did in the Purdue game," King said. "Try to force things that weren't there. We need to watch what we did wrong and try to be tough with the ball and stay more patient in the offense instead of trying to force things."
Besides taking advantage of turnovers, the Pirates were successful in shutting down Louisville's main inside threats, 7-footer Anas Mahmoud and 6-10 Ray Spalding, while outscoring the hosts 40-26 in the paint. Mahmoud didn't get a shot and had only one rebound in 20 minutes. Spalding led UofL in rebounding with eight in just 17 minutes, but scored only two points.
Padgett said he felt the Cards were better offensively with four guards on the floor along with Mahmoud.
"We had a flow going when Ray was on the bench, so we had to go with it," Padgett said.
When Powell hit a 3-pointer with 1:38 left, UofL trailed 77-73, but Dwayne Sutton cut to the basket, took a pass from Adel and scored on a dunk. Then Adel -- who finished with a team-high 20 points --hit a tough 10-foot leaner in the lane to tie the score at 77-77 and set up Rodriguez's heroics.
Louisville was out of timeouts when Adel scored. Seton Hall had one, but coach Kevin Willard declined to use it.
"I didn't want to call timeout and let them set up zone and then switch into man-to-man and us get confused," said Willard, an ex-assistant under former Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "I always feel if you don't let a team's defense get set, you have a better chance of scoring. I wanted the ball to be in Desi's hands at the end of the game."
After Rodriguez's basket, Quentin Snider hurriedly dribbled down court and launched a 3-pointer with four seconds left, but it missed and Rodriguez as the game ended. Snider wound up 1-of-7 from long distance.
If there was a bright spot for Louisville in the loss, it was the shooting of King, who followed his 5-of-11 performance at Purdue with 6-of-8 against Seton Hall, and he was a combined 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the two games. But he was on the bench for the final 3 1/2 minutes despite scoring 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
"The biggest thing is the won-lost column," King said. "I'm not worried about my individual play; we've got to get better as a team."
Louisville’s last loss to a non-conference team in the Yum! was against No. 1 Kentucky, 58-50, on Dec. 27, 2014. The Cards hadn't lost back-to-back games since Feb. of 2016 -- to Duke (72-65) and Notre Dame (71-66).
The defeat also leaves Louisville still searching for a quality win. Indiana, which visits the Yum! Saturday, might qualify, but the chance for a true marquee victory won't come until the Cards meet Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Dec. 29. Before the Hoosiers come to town, the Cardinals will host Siena Wednesday.