I promised the guy sitting next to me at tonight’s game between No. 5 Louisville and visiting Clemson at the KFC Yum Center I would not use any weather related references to the cold shooting displayed by both teams in the first half. Not that either team was as “Cold as Ice” as Foreigner sang in the 70’s. Or that they both needed a “Heat Wave” as Martha and the Vandellas sang in the 60’s.
I couldn’t resist the references. With the temperature hovering near zero outside, both teams put on shooting performances that were below freezing. The two teams combined to make only 14 of 53 shots in the first half. Clemson was just slightly better than Louisville by shooting 30.8 percent compared to the Cardinals’ abysmal 22.2 percent. Clemson led 22 – 18 at the half.
Montrezl Harrell played only five minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul. At times in the first half Louisville was playing both Mangok Mathiang and Chinanu Onuaku. This made it difficult for the offense as neither player had even scored a point in the last three games. Pitino said, “To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how much we want to throw the ball inside to Mangok (Mathiang) and Chinanu (Onuaku) against the zone.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was not completely disappointed in the first half saying, “The defense was fine, the offense was killing us. The offense was killing us. Defense was fine.”
The second half started off much better for Louisville. A 17 – 0 run gave Louisville a 35 – 22 lead. Wayne Blackshear struggled with his shooting the entire game making only 3 of his 13 shots, however he made a huge three-pointer to begin the second half.
Terry Rozier, Chris Jones, and Harrell helped push Louisville’s lead. Rozier finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He scored six points during the run.
Harrell finally got involved by scoring five points during Louisville’s run. The final two points of the run sent the 21,676 fans into a frenzy. Rozier threw a beautiful lob to Harrell for a vicious dunk.
It has been a long season for senior guard Chris Jones, but he has come out of his season-long slump the past two games. For the second straight game Jones score more the 20 points. He finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals.
Clemson used a zone for the entire game to slow down the Louisville offense. Pitino commented on how this affected his team saying, “So we need to get better at our zone offense because teams are going to play zone and Bob Valvano asked me, `Were you surprised (that they played zone against you)?’ I said, “Hell I would play zone 40 minutes, why would you play Louisville man?”
Louisville will travel Saturday to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at 2:00. This should be a faster pace game as the Tar Heels love to get up and down the court. The No. 18 Tar Heels are 11 – 4 and averaging 80.1 points per game good for 16th in the NCAA and are number two in rebounding at 45.1 points per game.