By Jason Sheehan –
Rick Pitino was asked after Louisville’s 102 – 54 rout of Rutgers what teams have impressed him so far this season and how close the Cardinals are to the top tier teams. He said he was impressed with, Florida, Michigan State, Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Creighton, etc. “I’m very impressed with all of those teams and I think we are in the mix as well because we are getting better,” Pitino said.
If the Cardinals shoot as well as they did against Rutgers, they will most certainly be a tough matchup for any team. Louisville blistered the nets with 55.7% shooting including 16 – 30 from three point range.
Luke Hancock led the way for the Cardinals scoring a career high 25 points. Hancock made 6 of his 8 three point attempts, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists.
Pitino praised Hancock when asked a question about another Cardinal player, Stephen Van Treese. Van Treese had a solid game scoring 8 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots. Pitino said, “When you have Luke on the floor, Luke makes guys look better. He knows how to get Van Treese’s confidence going and throws good passes to him. Luke’s a really big catalyst for us like Francisco (Garcia) was years ago.”
Terry Rozier came off of the Cardinals’ bench to score a career-high 16 points. Rozier was coming off one of his worst performances of the season at Temple where he was held scoreless and missed all 4 of his three point attempts. Rozier connected on 4 of his 7 threes tonight.
Tonight’s game against Rutgers showed how much Louisville has improved. In the Cardinals’ 83 – 76 victory against Rutgers on Jan. 4, Louisville dished out only 7 assists and committed 17 turnovers. Pitino called their play in that game “very selfish”.
Eight Cardinal players scored 7 or more points and 7 hit at least one three. It is the kind of balance that Pitino wants from his team. The Cardinals had 23 assists on 34 made field goals.
Rutgers was overmatched from the beginning of the game as Louisville stormed out to a 10 – 2 lead. The strong performance continued as the Cardinals would lead by 19 at the half. Louisville then opened the second half on 26 – 3 run to put the game out of reach at 69 – 27.
Louisville held the Scarlet Knights to 35.4 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. Pitino was not only happy with the offense, but even more so with the improvement with his team’s defense. Pitino said, “Now three weeks ago I was very worried about the type of defense we were playing. Our defense has improved dramatically. Dramatically. And that’s a good thing. Even our zone’s getting better.”
The Cardinals return to the KFC Yum Center Tuesday night at 7 to take on the South Florida Bulls. Louisville routed the Bulls on Jan. 22 in Tampa 86 – 47.
Louisville improved their record to 21- 4 and 10 – 2 in the AAC.