CRAWFORD | New season, same defense, Louisville throttles No. 14 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | New season, same defense, Louisville throttles No. 14 Ohio State 64-55

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Let's play a statistical association game. I'm going to give you a set of stats, you tell me what you think the score of the No. 5-ranked University of Louisville's basketball game against No. 14 Ohio State Tuesday night should've been.

Minutes played at the center position: Freshman Anas Mahmoud 24, freshman Chinanu Onuaku 10, sophomore Mangok Mathiang 5.

Starting backcourt statistics: Terry Rozier 3-11 from the field, 5 turnovers, Chris Jones 3-15, 4 turnovers.

Points in the paint: 18. Bench points: 6.

So what do you think? Ohio State by 10? By 15?

We know this much after Louisville raced to a 19-point lead and held on late for a 64-55 victory over the Buckeyes: Its defense, ranked No. 1 nationally in efficiency by Ken Pomeroy coming into the game, is legitimate.

And the offense? Well it's hit and miss. But mostly miss at the moment.

"We needed defense to win this game tonight," Pitino said. "We got in some situations where we were offensively challenged, playing some guys we didn't expect to play. We were expecting to play Matz (Stockman) tonight. He had a great week of practice. Then he dunked a ball in the walk-through today and threw out his neck. Then we got in foul trouble and had to play Anas, and he did a good job."

Here are a couple more key stats from Tuesday, which were the difference between victory and defeat for the Cardinals: Wayne Blackshear had 22 points and made 4 of 8 three-pointers, and Terry Rozier scored nine points (and made two huge three-pointers) in the final 3:49 of the game, despite suffering a dislocated pinky earlier in the second half.

But it was defense in the first half, and in the closing minutes, that won this game.

In the first half, Ohio State could get nothing. They ranked ninth in scoring at 89.4 points per game coming into the game, and were No. 2 in field goal percentage at 56.7 percent. Against Louisville, they made 6 of 26 shots in the first half and shot 30.4 percent for the game.

And Pitino was perhaps most pleased with the job his guards did on Ohio State point guard Shannon Scott, who came into the game as the nation's assist leader at 10.4 per game. His final stat line: 3 points, 0 assists, 5 turnovers.

"That's as fine a half defensively as we've played a long, long time, and that's including past years," Pitino said. "That's what's carrying us right now. Our offense is going to come. I thought we passed the ball really, really well tonight. We got a lot of open shots. We had 15 assists, and we just didn't' make the shots."

For fans who have been waiting to see Blackshear produce against a top-flight opponent, Tuesday was their night. His first points came off a lob dunk from Montrezl Harrell and he was off and running. He had 16 points at the half, and Ohio State as a team had only 18. He made 3 of 5 from beyond the arc in the first half before the Buckeyes began shading him in the second.

"He had 16 at the half, and I told him, I want you to get 30," Rozier said. "I just kept trying to get him the ball and encouraging him."

Ohio State played a 2-3 zone that it sagged even more into the paint in the second half, keeping a trio of players around Harrell whenever he was in the paint. Harrell didn't force anything -- except for one three-pointer on the break in the first half -- and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Mahmoud was credited with only two blocks and had 7 rebounds in his 24 minutes, but altered quite a few more shots in the lane and dished out an assist.

But it was Rozier who particularly impressed Pitino. He had a horrendous shooting night for most of the game. He was 0-for-8 through the first 36 minutes, and had an uncharacteristic five turnovers, though he did dish out 7 assists.

That didn't stop him from making the biggest shot of the game, a three from the right wing after Ohio State had climbed back to within three pointers. He went on to make two more big shots and a free throw in the final 3:49.

"As good as Wayne was, I was really impressed with Terry," Pitino said.

Rozier had to go into the tunnel to let team trainer Fred Hina pop his left pinky finger back into place (it had dislocated last week in practice, also). He got it taped and returned.

"His finger is totally dislocated," Pitino said. "You know it's throbbing. You know it's hurting, and he took the big shot when we were up three to give us the lead. And that's a hell of a thing for a guy like that to do. I thought Terry Rozier, who didn't have his jump shot early, was getting every rebound and making big plays down the stretch."

Ohio State was led by Louisville native D'Angelo Russell, who bounced back from a tough first half to take the game over late. He finished with 17 points on 6 of 20 shooting and had all seven of the Buckeyes' assists.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta didn't meet with the media after the game. He had a back ailment treated briefly by U of L trainers and was tending to a player who had a death in the family.

Buckeyes' assistant Dave Dickerson said his team showed heart late, but dug itself too big a hole.

"One thing you've got to keep in mind is that Louisville is a very good team and this is one of the best home courts in the country," he said. "Their pressure bothered us in the first half and we couldn't get into any offensive rhythm. . . . We tried to simulate their pressure in practice, which we didn't do a very good job of. . . . Their offensive rebounding was as good as we've seen. D'Angelo, even though he didn't shoot the ball well, we thought he competed well."

Pitino said that with freshmen on the court, there were some defensive mistakes late. But he said he's not worried about the offense. It will come. He took a team that struggled offensively to the Final Four in 2012, and had an object lesson for those worried about the team's shooting now."

"We'll start making them," Pitino told reporters. "A lot of you, if you don't remember, what I'm told by Eric Crawford when we did the book, was that you all questioned Luke Hancock, and you all remember what happened there."

I'm not sure about that conversation. He has a point about Hancock. He has a banged-up team. Mathiang has an ankle sprain that might keep him out a while. Chris Jones is nursing a small stress fracture in his shin. Rozier's finger was hurting.

But they are 6-0, with a win at home over a top 20 team. And their defense is as good as it has been, perhaps a little better, because of the addition of some shot-blockers. On Tuesday, they were switching from zone to man as many as four or five times in a single possession.

"He's probably one of the best pressure coaches in college basketball," Dickerson said. "They do a great job in the full-court and in the half-court. They start in a matchup that goes to a man, that sometimes goes back to a matchup. . . . Our guys knew what they were going to do, but when you play a team like Louisville that pressures you, sometimes you can't simulate that in practice."

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