The 14th-ranked Louisville Cardinals came in to Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion shorthanded Wednesday night. They left with a convincing 77 – 62 road win.
Hot shooting was the key for the Cardinals. They were on fire in the first half, shooting 70 percent from the field. They finished the game shooting 56 percent.
Russ Smith led the way for the Cardinals with 17 points and 6 assists. Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell each scored 15 points as Louisville. Hancock was 8 – 9 from the free throw line.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Louisville was the play of Chris Jones. Jones started in place of Terry Rozier. He finished with 14 points, 3 assists, 5 steals, and only 1 turnover. His most impressive stretch came during the second half when Houston pulled within 9 points. Jones hit a three pointer, stole the ball, and then hit another jumper. After two Luke Hancock free throws he then made another jumper to put the Cardinals up by 15 points with 4:43 remaining.
Jones is still not in top shape as he picked up a few pounds while he was out. However, tonight he looked like the player Louisville recruited out of Junior College.
Rick Pitino was not happy with his team’s defensive performance in the second half. They let Houston blow past them on the perimeter for easy shots inside and thus keep the Cougars in the game. This has been one of Louisville’s main problems so far this season. Last season they could get away with it because of the shot blocking presence of Gorgui Dieng. They are lacking the shot blocking presence this season that could cover their defensive liabilities. Louisville faces another eight day stretch without a game. They will play Temple in the KFC Yum Center next Thursday. Louisville associate head coach Kevin Keats spoke to reporters after the game and said, “Having these eight days off, you get a chance to see what you’re not doing well.”
The next eight days will also be helpful in allowing injured junior, Wayne Blackshear, more time to get healthy. Blackshear is recovering from a concussion suffered during Monday’s practice. Louisville improved their record to 19 – 4. Houston fell to 11 – 12.