“I said that they need a win, but we needed a win. I knew how important this game was – we needed a win.” Those were the words of Louisville coach, Rick Pitino.
Louisville came in to their Saturday afternoon game against the Miami Hurricanes reeling after losing three of their last four games. Not only were they losing, but starting point guard Chris Jones was suspended for one game. This led to a players-only meeting led by Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier.
The game started out horrible for the Cardinals, leading many fans to become restless and wondering if U of L would lose their third straight. Miami jumped out to a 19 – 6 lead. The Cardinals went on an all-to-familiar shooting drought, making only 2 of their first 13 shots. Miami would hold a 29 – 19 halftime lead.
Pitino explained the bad start saying, “The reason we got off to such a bad start- I haven’t seen our guys do this- on every drive to the basket, including Montrezl, we were trying to lean into the guy to draw the foul, and it was taking us out of our offensive rhythm by doing that. Then, when you have a start like that, the guys start to panic and they don’t want to shoot, as Chris Jones had a wide open three.”
The second half started out much better. Chris Jones, who did not start the game, started the second half and single-handedly brought the Cardinals back. Jones stole the ball off of an errant pass and drove the lane for a layup. He then took a pass from Wayne Blackshear and drained a three to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 5 at 29 – 24.
Jones scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds in 36 minutes of action. His play on the court, however, was not what excited Pitino the most. Pitino said, “You appreciate how hard he works, so you give him some latitude when things don’t go well and he comes out of the game. He came out of the game tonight, and actually didn’t pout for the first time, which was awesome. He just sat down, I said `You ready to go in?’ and he said `Yes.’ Now we took the next step.”
Wayne Blackshear, coming off of one of his worst games of his career, hit a three to keep the Cards close at 32 – 27. He scored 10 points, 3 rebounds, and had two blocks.
Montrezl Harrell hit a three to pull the Cardinals within two, 32 – 30. Harrell played one of his better all-around games of the season leading the team with a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds to go along with his 3 steals and 3 blocks.
After Blackshear hit a jumper to pull U of L within one with 1:20 remaining, Harrell made perhaps his biggest play of the game after getting fouled. Harrell, a much-improved free throw shooter, but still only at 59 percent on the season, drained two huge free throws with 36 seconds left to give the Cardinals the lead for good.
For the second straight game Chinanu Onuaku gave U of L inspired play in the post. He only scored one point, but picked up eight rebounds – five on the offensive end.
Louisville improves to 21 – 6 overall and 9 – 5 in the ACC. They travel to Georgia to face off against Georgia Tech Monday night.