The seventh-ranked Louisville Cardinals were one of six ranked teams playing unranked teams Thursday night. Unlike the other five ranked teams, Louisville made sure they would not fall victim to the upset bug. They dominated Temple just as they have done to every unranked opponent this season. The Cardinals lead the nation in scoring margin at 20.6. They outdid that number with an easy 88 – 66 win over the Owls.
Chris Jones and Terry Rozier were key players in the win. Rick Pitino was extremely impressed with their play saying, “I like both guys very much and I thought they were outstanding tonight.” Jones keyed an opening 12 – 2 run with 4 assists. He played one of his best all-around games of the season finishing with 9 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals. “I just thought he was really active,” Pitino said. Rozier continues to show the entire country that he should be mentioned with the other top freshman. He has improved as the season has gone on. Rozier had 19 points on 8 – 10 shooting. He was 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 24 points. He was 8 of 12 from the field and 7 – 8 from the free throw line. Smith scored 11 of the Cardinals’ first 17 points including a miraculous over the head shot. Despite his strong early scoring, Pitino was not too please with Smith as he sat him on the bench for 11 minutes of the first half. When asked about Smith’s crazy plays and if he has learned that Pitino will take him out of the game, Pitino said, “He didn’t, because I told him that three times before. Look, you have to give him his latitude, but the thing about it is Russ is having a great season. I know Doug McDermott will win Player of the Year. I might get upset with him, but Russ is one of the top three players in the nation. It’s just that he is playing so great I just don’t want him to revert back.” Montrezl Harrell was a force once again in the paint. Harrell finished with points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field. His 9 field goals included 4 highlight-reel dunks and a rather unusual 19 foot jumper from the top of the key. Of course he banked the jumper in.
Pitino spoke of the unselfish play and the team chemistry saying, “Guys have totally bought in to unselfish play and think of each other. I think they really put winning above everything else.” “I think they like each other and they have a good time when they are out there. We have been very blessed. We have had great chemistry for three years. Not every team has that. Some teams have good chemistry, but we have had great chemistry. They guys like each other a lot and are joking around. We have a lot of laughs together and I think that helps create a very good locker room. It shows on the court and off the court. They have a great time together.” Temple was led by Will Cummings and Quenton Decosey. Cummings scored 18 points and Decosey 17. The Owls’ leading scorer on the season, Dalton Pepper, was held to 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting from the field.
Louisville has only one day to prepare for their next game on Saturday in Memphis. The Tigers were upset against Houston 77 – 68. The Cardinals will be trying to break even with the Tigers as Memphis came in to the KFC Yum Center on January 9 and beat the Cardinals 73 – 67.