“I thought we had a chance there, and then boom,” Krzyzewski said afterward. “That’s what they do to teams. They can boom you.” Those were the words of Duke’s Mike Kryzewski after Louisville went on a 17 – 2 second half run to defeat the Blue Devils 85 – 63 in the 2013 Midwest Regional Final.
‘Boom’ is exactly what No. 9 Louisville did to Pittsburgh in the second half Wednesday night. The Cardinals used a 28 – 5 second half run to beat the Panthers 69 – 56.
After trailing 27 – 22 at the half, Pittsburgh came out strong to start the second half, using a 12 – 2 run to take a 34 – 29 lead. The Panthers continued to hold the lead at 45 – 39 with 12:09 remaining. Their solid, hard-nosed defense was holding the Cardinals in check, making it tough to get a good look at the basket.
Once again Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier led the way. The two combined to score 21 of the 27 points during the run. Rozier scored 12 and Harrell scored 9 of the Cardinals’ 27 points.
Harrell was all over the floor the entire game, leading U of L with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high 5 blocks. All of this came while playing all 40 minutes.
Rick Pitino was blown away by Harrell’s motor saying, “Obviously, I am kind of amazed that Montrezl Harrell could play the entire game without a break and play as hard as that. His motor is kind of incredible.”
Harrell scored his baskets on a mix of inside-outside shots. Pitino was asked if any of Harrell’s moves surprised him, “I just think, even when he gets double-teamed, he can get to places you shouldn’t go and still get to the rim. You know he can go behind the backboard, come back in, and still be above the rim. He’s got tremendous length and with his wingspan and everybody can see how much he’s improved his 16, 17-foot shot. The good thing is he’s not taking threes, he’s taking that shot, which he’s going to make.”
Rozier, Louisville’s most consistent player, scored 22 points and once again showed why he is one of the best rebounding guards in the country by grabbing 10 rebounds. His ability to hit jumper after jumper helped keep the Cardinals in control of the game. He also hit all 10 of his free throws.
The Cardinals even got some help from some unlikely sources. Shaqquan Aaron and Anton Gill were pressed into action after Wayne Blackshear left the game with a hip pointer one minute into the game. Aaron did not do much offensively, but was active on defense. Gill scored only two points, but dished out two assists and grabbed two rebounds.
Also missing from the lineup for much of the second half was starting point guard
Chris Jones. Pitino was not happy with the play of Jones and replaced him with freshman Quentin Snider. “Tonight we needed him because Chris (Jones) was not on his game, he was forcing things too much and we had to go with him (Quentin), said Pitino. Snider scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in 15 minutes.
Anas Mahmoud played 10 minutes, scored only two points, but had what may have been the play of the night right after Harrell’s slam put the Cardinals up by 14 with 4:00 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh’s Josh Newkirk drove down the lane only to have Mahmoud swat the ball into the stands to a rousing ovation from the 22,000 plus in attendance.
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center Saturday at 4:00 to face North Carolina State. Louisville improved to 20 – 4 overall and 8 – 3 in the ACC. Pittsburgh fell to 16 – 9 overall and 5 – 6 in the ACC.