No. 6 ranked Louisville had not played Virginia Tech since the 1995 season. That was the last season for the Metro Conference. They met again on the hardwood tonight as now part of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cardinals own a decided advantage in the series by winning 28 of the 36 games. It would be no different tonight as U of L used an early 15 – 0 run to run away from the visiting Hokies and win 78 – 63.
Rick Pitino was especially complementary of his starters, “The first unit guys played really well and passed the ball really well. They did a lot of really good things at executing, making extra passes, and executing. Their team was totally overmatched, and I think they worked really, really hard, and I just wanted to make sure that they weren’t embarrassed in any way possible because they worked so hard. It was good that we gave some guys an opportunity, with a big game coming up, to play. And real, real proud of the way our starters played tonight, they did a terrific job.”
The starters scored 60 of the Cardinals’ 78 points. Starting point guard Chris Jones was the only starter not to score in double figures, but for the fourth straight game he played like a true leader. Jones scored only seven points, but dished out a career-high 11 assists with only 2 turnovers.
Pitino was asked what his team has improved on and made a significant statement on how well Jones has played of late, “We played well against Carolina, we played even better tonight. We’re getting better, and I think it all stems from Chris Jones’ willingness to be a leader and to be a point guard. I still want to see him take open shots because we need that at times, but he was totally into getting people good shots and running the team and doing great things defensively, real proud of his effort.”
Terry Rozier led U of L with 16 points. Rozier hit 4 – 6 three-pointers.
Mangok Mathiang started at center and immediately made his presence felt against the outmatched Hokies. He scored 11 points (10 in the first half) and grabbed 8 rebounds.
Pitino has been in search of someone to command the center position for his team. He has used all three centers in the starting lineup, but none has stepped up. Mathiang replaced Onuaka in the lineup and played well, but Pitino cautioned everyone about this performance leading up to the Cardinals’ huge matchup against Duke this Saturday. He said, “He’s really a power forward. He can get away with playing tonight, against Duke he’s probably not going to be able to get away with that.”
Montrezl Harrell scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while Wayne Blackshear scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Now it is on to just another huge matchup for U of L. First it was No. 1 Kentucky. Then it was on the road to No. 18 North Carolina. Now it is No. 4 Duke coming in to the KFC Yum Center this Saturday for a 12:00 matchup.
The matchup between these two heavyweights has some significant history to it. Louisville beat Duke on their way to the 2013 National Championship and beat them in 1986 to win their second Championship.
*Louisville will honor the 1980 Championship team on its 35th anniversary year of their national title.
*Former Louisville Cardinal great Luke Hancock was in attendance. Hancock is currently playing professional ball in Athens, Greece.
*Montrezl Harrell needs 12 points to reach 1000 for his career.