Louisville's difficult start to the men's basketball season seemed to hit rock bottom on Tuesday, with coach Kenny Payne saying, "At times, it looked like we gave up," in a 79-54 home loss to Maryland.
The Cardinals dropped to 0-7 on the season, joining this season's California Golden Bears as the only major conference teams in the past 40 years to start 0-7. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it's the second-longest losing streak to start a season in ACC history and Louisville's worst start since the 1940-41 season.
"We did not compete. We did not fight. We didn't meet their intensity. At times, it looked like we gave up," Payne said.
Payne said he asked his players after the game whether they've given up.
"They said they're not giving up," he said. "They said there are times when adversity hits and they panic and they don't play together. They haven't understood fully how to handle adversity."
"We told him no," Cardinals guard El Ellis said. "We're competitors; why would we quit? Things happen, we're going through a rough time right now, but that doesn't mean we're going to quit. We just have to keep playing."
Louisville's first season under Payne has gone downhill quickly. The Cardinals opened with three straight one-point home losses, to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State, followed by three noncompetitive blowout defeats at the Maui Invitational to Arkansas, Texas Tech and Cincinnati.
Then came Tuesday's home date in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against the Terrapins.
Louisville kept it competitive in the first half, fighting back from an early 14-point deficit to cut the lead to eight points late and eventually going into the break down 11.
But Maryland hit five 3-pointers in the first 3½ minutes of the second half and pushed the lead to 25 points within eight minutes.
"The last thing I said to the guys before walking on the court [for the second half] was, the first five minutes, fight. Be desperate," Payne said. "Don't let them make a run. Those were the last words I said. And then Maryland made three or four straight 3s."
The lead grew to 33 points with 6:08 remaining before Louisville finished the game on a 14-6 run to provide the final margin. The Cardinals shot 33.9% from the field and 25.0% from 3, dropping them to No. 298 nationally in 3-point percentage and No. 318 nationally in 2-point percentage. They also rank in the bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage.
It won't get easier in the coming weeks for Louisville, as the Cardinals host Miami on Sunday before traveling to Florida State next weekend and welcoming Western Kentucky to town on Dec. 14. It's likely they won't be favored to win a game until they host Florida A&M on Dec. 17. By that point, they could be 0-10.
"They need to have some success, and it needs to come in the form of a W," Payne said. "But any opponent that we're going to play is not going to feel sorry for us and give us a W. They're going to come in here and try to beat our head in by 30 or 40. And we've got to have pride and understand what it is. We got dropped off in the jungle, and we've got to make it out. That's what it is."