First-year coach Bennie Seltzer felt his Samford team came out scared in Thursday's 80-54 loss to No. 2 Louisville.
Samford's slow start in front of 20,016 spoiled any chance of keeping the game competitive.
The Bulldogs made only four field goals in the first half and went without a basket in the 7:08 before intermission.
They shot just 22 percent and trailed 42-13 at the break.
"I thought, first half, we had a little stage fright," Seltzer said.
There should be little surprise that Samford, with the one of the nation's youngest rosters, would start the game that way. The Bulldogs have no seniors and nine of their 14 players are underclassmen.
Louisville was the school's highest-ranked opponent since opening the 2006 season with a 79-54 loss to top-ranked and defending champ Florida.
Samford came out stronger after halftime. Its first seven field goals were 3-pointers and a shift to a zone defense slowed the Cardinals early, but Seltzer focused on Louisville's 28 offensive rebounds.
"I am proud of the second-half effort, but we must become a tougher team," Seltzer said.
The Bulldogs won't get much of a rest before another stiff challenge at No. 17 Memphis on Saturday.
The team boarded a bus for Memphis after the game and Seltzer said he'd begin breaking down film of the Tigers during the six-hour drive.
"I guarantee that rebounding will be one thing that we'll work on," Seltzer said of Friday's practice. "We will get after it tomorrow."
Freshman Tim Williams led Samford with 15 points and six rebounds. He appreciates the chance at another ranked opponent on the heels of his first big-game experience.
"I'm actually glad it's a quick turnaround because then we can show what we got better on," Williams said. "Hopefully we'll play more relaxed the first half after coming from Louisville. I think we'll play a lot calmer in the Memphis game."
Samford was outrebounded 53-28 by Louisville, which got a career-high 18 from Chane Behanan. His 13 first-half rebounds were one more than the Bulldogs as a team.
Russ Smith scored a game-high 18 points for the Cardinals.
Samford's one upside was shooting better than Louisville. The Bulldogs shot 39.1 percent, compared to 38.9 percent for the Cardinals.
Samford also hit 8 of 15 3-pointers in the second half and 9 of 20 overall. While it didn't get the Bulldogs closer than 24 points after intermission, they outscored the Cardinals 41-38.
Samford's youngsters began against a slightly different Louisville lineup. The Cardinals' initial set included Behanan and Wayne Blackshear at forward along with Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng.
The Cardinals also tried a smaller lineup with Dieng surrounded by three guards and Hancock.
All the combinations were effective as the Cardinals built a 24-6 lead after 11-plus minutes, helped by a 13-0 run. They had outrebounded the Bulldogs 11-4 at that point and made it hard for Samford to get anything inside.
Louisville closed the half even better, holding Samford without a field goal for the final 7:08 to lead 42-13 at intermission.
"In the first half I saw a lot of combinations that looked really good," Pitino said.
The Bulldogs didn't crack double digits until 4:38 remained in the half when Clide Geffrard Jr. made two free throws.