In No. 7 Louisville’s first two games we have seen Montrezl Harrell play like the preseason All-American he was projected to be. We have seen Terry Rozier live up to the preseason hype as the man who will pick up as the next great Louisville guard. However, according to Rick Pitino, neither of these two have been the best
player on the court so far this season. That honor would go to senior guard, Chris Jones. Jones has struggled with his shot going 8 for 26 in the first two games. Howerver, it is his passing and his defense that has Pitino so pleased with him. He finished tonight’s game with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Pitino said, “I think Chris was brilliant the other night. I think Chris was great tonight. I think everything you see happening is Chris Jones making it happen. He’s playing like a true point guard. I thought his play in the first half was outstanding. Sometimes statistics don’t (tell the story) then you wake up tomorrow morning and if you weren’t at the game [you wouldn’t know] without question that he was the best player on the floor tonight.”
Jones’ in-your-face full court defense is reminiscent of former Louisville guards Andre McGee, Preston Knowles, and Peyton Siva. He has that bulldog mentality frustrates the opponents and he does it without fouling. The biggest difference with Jones this year is the extra weight he has cut. Whether it is around ten pounds as Pitino has said or close to twenty as Jones has said, the fact of the matter is that he is a much quicker player than last season. When asked about what makes Jones so good at getting steals, Pitino had this to say, “Well, I really think the quickness factor really helped him this year. He got so much quicker with his hands, quicker with his feet.”
All five starters scored in double figures for the Cardinals as they cruised to an 88 – 39 victory in the Global Sports Showcase. Harrell once again led the Cardinals with 15 points to go along with his 7 rebounds. The one thing missing from his game tonight was his newfound outside shot. He missed all three of his three point attempts after making 3 of 4 in the first game against Minnesota.
Pitino was not completely pleased with Harrell’s performance and his reliance on his outside shot saying, “You know, I think after movement, it’s good. I just want to see him get some post-up plays on the break. I think he’s taking away a little bit too much of the strength of his game but I think after movement, going from inside to outside is fine. Going from outside to inside is no good. I think he’s got to work inside to out. Like tonight, he didn’t get any post-ups tonight on the break and I think that’s a strength of his. And I’d like
to see him get six to eight points a game just on easy baskets.” Terry Rozier once again played a solid game finishing with 13 points and 4 rebounds. Rozier also made the most electrifying play of the night early in the second half. He had the ball stolen from him in the lane and then hustled back to block the layup attempt by Gamecock guard Avery Moore. Wayne Blackshear bounced back after a disappointing performance in the first game. Blackshear had a nice all-around game finishing with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. His 9 rebounds are a career- high. Pitino praised Blackshear’s performance tonight saying, “The best part was his passing. You know I was joking around in the walk-through today. I said, ‘Get to the corner. Wayne will get his first assist. And he took it personally tonight. He made four or five terrific passes. I though Wayne was great tonight.
I really did. I though he played a total game. He rebounded, he passed, he shot, he made a big-time dunk. That’s about as high as I’ve seen him jump. So I think Wayne was great tonight.” Chinanu Onuaku got his second straight start and used his size to his advantage against the overmatched Gamecocks. He finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Louisville led 13 – 10 with 14:39 remaining in the first half. They took control and closed out the half on by outscoring the Gamecocks 37 to 10. Jacksonville State would score the first basket in the second half, but would not score again for nearly 11 minutes as Louisville pushed its lead to 51. Darion Rackley was the only Gamecock player in double figures finishing with 11 points. Louisville held the Gamecocks to 28 percent shooting from the field and destroyed them on the boards 60 to 26.
Louisville continues the Global Sports Showcase against Marshall Thundering Herd this Friday at 9:00 in the KFC Yum Center.