The Louisville Cardinals first played Western Kentucky in 1926 when the Hilltoppers won 28 – 27. Today’s game was the 78th game between the two games with Western Kentucky surprisingly holding a 39 – 38 advantage in the series. Western has won only three times in last 26 games against Louisville dating back to 1961. It would be hard-pressed to find a more intense game between the two teams that what we saw in front of a packed house in E. A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green.
The No. 4 ranked Cardinals came in winners of their first nine games and playing their first true road game. They knew this would be a difficult test and that is exactly what they got.
Montrezl Harrell was in control of the game in the first half, scoring 14 of his team’s 28 points and grabbed six rebounds. However, he was ejected from the game with 38 seconds remaining in the first half for throwing an elbow at a Western Kentucky player follow a loose ball scramble on the floor. After the officials reviewed the play, Harrell was assessed a Flagrant-2 foul.
Assistant coach Kenny Johnson filled in for Rick PItino after the game said this about the Harrell ejection, “Anytime you – you always talk about keeping a level head, no matter what the environment may be. Montrezl owned up to his part in the mistake. That’s what happens in life as well as basketball, you make mistakes. In his mind, he was trying to protect himself so he could stand up properly. He owned up to it, and we had to fight without him.”
After all of the dust settled, it was Terry Rozier who showed up in a big way. Rozier was seemingly unstoppable in the second half finishing with a career-high 32 points to go along with his five rebounds and three steals.
At one point in the second half Rozier scored 17 consecutive points during a 10 minute and seventeen second stretch.
Several players had strong games in Harrell’s absence. Anas Mahmoud played 23 minutes off of the bench and finished with six points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked three shots. One of his biggest plays of the came after Western Kentucky scored to make it 69 – 64. Mahmoud cut down the lane and received a pass from Anton Gill and slammed it home to put the Cardinals up 71 – 64, showing why coach Pitino sees huge potential in him.
Anton Gill’s shot still is not where it needs to be, but Pitino has stressed that he needs to do the other things well to get more playing time. Today’s game was case-in-point. Gill scored only five points, but grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot in 15 minutes of action. His three-pointer with 6:45 remaining pushed Louisville’s lead to 10. He made two big free throws down the stretch after making only three of his first nine on the season.
Free throw shooting has been Louisville’s achilles heel this season so far. Today they finished well above their season average 60.4 percent, hitting 26 of their 30 attempts for 86.7 percent.
- J. Price led Western Kentucky with 24 points, but made only 7 of his 19 attempts. D. J. Clayton was the only other player for the Hilltoppers to score in double figures scoring 14 points off of the bench.
With the loss, Western Kentucky falls to 5 – 5 while Louisville improves their record to 10 – 0.
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center Tuesday night at 7:00 to take on Cal-State Northridge.
*Terry Rozier’s 32 points were a career-high.
*Rozier’s 11 free throws made and 13 attempts were both career-highs.
*Shaqquan Aaron dressed for his first collegiate game, but saw no action.
*This was Rick Pitino’s 950th game coached in college