New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden has become familiar territory for the No. 4 ranked Louisville Cardinals over the past five years. It has become a home away from home. With their win against Indiana, the Cardinals have now won nine straight and 11 of their past 12 games in the Garden. They also won the 2009, 2012, and 2013 Big East Championships in the Garden.
Defense has been the key to Louisville’s early season success. This game was the polar opposite in the first half as the Hoosiers hit 7 of their first 10 threes. However, Louisville led 46 – 41 at the half.
Indiana took the lead two minutes into the second half on a jumper by freshman James Blackmon Jr. They would push the lead to four, 52 – 48.
Chris Jones made sure the lead didn’t last for long. He made two jumpers, one of which was a three-pointer, to give the Cardinals the lead back for good.
Rick Pitino has said Jones is at his best when he is taking good shots. That is exactly what he did tonight displaying a mix of layups, mid-range jumpers, and solid three-point shooting (2 of 4 from three-point range).
The Hoosiers would keep the game close trailing 65 – 60 with 10:27 to play, but the Cardinals showed their power by closing the game on a 29 – 14 run to win 94 – 74 in the annual Jimmy V. Classic. Louisville improved to 8 – 0 while the Hoosiers dropped to 7 – 2.
Offensive rebounding and pressure defense were the overwhelming keys to the Cardinals’ victory. They corralled 24 offensive rebounds compared to just 10 for the Hoosiers. Indiana committed 19 turnovers to 13 for Louisville.
Indiana coach Tom Crean was unsure of how his team would control Montrezl Harrell. He found out that he did not have the answer. Harrell was dominant. The junior forward posted his third straight double-double going off for 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. His 7 dunks broke the Louisville record held by the great Pervis Ellison.
This game featured two of the best backcourts in the country. Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. and Yogi Ferrell versus the Cardinals’ backcourt of Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. Blackmon Jr. came in to the game averaging 19.5 points (highest in the nation for a freshman). Ferrell averaged 17.3 points per game.
Blackmon Jr. and Ferrell finished with a combined 31 points on 12 of 29 shooting. Prior to the game Blackmon Jr. had made 54.2 percent of this three pointers. He made only 1 of 9 against the Cardinals.
The backcourt tandem of Chris Jones and Terry Rozier was in control the entire game as they combined for 50 points. Jones played his best game of the season finishing with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Rozier had his best shooting night of the season hitting 5 of his 8 three pointers in route to scoring a career-high 26 points.
Pitino has spoken about the need to develop the Cardinals’ bench. Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud, and Jaylen Johnson all contributed off of the bench. All came into the game and provided energy off the bench to help the Cardinals.
Mathiang missed the last game against Florida International with a sprained ankle. He showed no lingering effects against Indiana. His energy helped the Cardinals as he blocked 4 shots and scored 6 points.
The Cardinals return to the KFC Yum Center to play the UNC Wilmington Seahawks Sunday at 6:00. The Seahawks are coached by former Cardinals’ assistant Kevin Keats.
NOTE: The Cardinals received great news earlier in the day as it was announced that freshman Shaqquan Aaron would be eligible beginning December the 20th when the Cardinals travel to Bowling Green to square off against the Hilltoppers