CRAWFORD | Jones, Rozier, Harrell 'trifecta' leads Louisville pa - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Jones, Rozier, Harrell 'trifecta' leads Louisville past Wake 85-76

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville basketball team's flight to Winston-Salem was delayed by three hours on Saturday before the No. 5-ranked Cardinals finally got into the air. They didn't reach North Carolina until midnight.

Compounding their problems, someone must have forgotten to pack their defense.

Wake Forest put on a clinic for most of Sunday's game against the Cards, shooting 52.8 percent for the game and at one point making 16 out of 19 shots and going more than nine minutes without missing a shot.

But if the Cardinals weren't stopping the Demon Deacons, they were equal to the offensive challenge. They shot 50 percent themselves, made seven three-pointers (all in the first half) and used one late defensive burst to preserve an 85-76 victory in the first Atlantic Coast Conference game in program history.

CRAWFORD | Jones listens, shoots, passes Cards past Wake 

Montrezl Harrell had 20 first-half points and finished with 25, along with 13 rebounds. Chis Jones scored 22, with 20 of them coming in the second half, to go with 10 assists. And Terry Rozier, who sat for 15 minutes because of foul trouble, still finished with 18 points.

“Chris Jones was brilliant,” Pitino said after the game. “Montrezl was great in the first half. Terry, Chris and Montrezl played a great game, and that trifecta carried us to victory.”

Pitino was frustrated with his team's defense all night, mainly from the play of his inexperienced centers. Freshman Anas Mahmoud started the game, but neither Mangok Mathiang nor Chinanu Onuaku off the bench had much better luck as Wake Forest's Devin Thomas plowed his way to 31 points on 11 of 14 shooting. Wake Forest scored 44 points in the paint to U of L's 34, and opened the second half with a 10-0 run, going on to make its first seven shots of the half.

Pitino went from the team's usual matchup zone to a man-to-man and even tried a 3-2 zone at one point. His centers never found the defensive answer, an answer that Pitino said he preached in preparation — don't let Thomas go to his left.

“I was just trying to get one five man to play the type of defense we wanted to play,” Pitino said. “Just to understand, all we talked about was the young man (Thomas) is going to go left 85 percent of the time. But we kept giving him his left hand. So at halftime, we pointed out, which one was his left and which one was his right. We don't have a lot of guys majoring in which hand a guy uses on scouts. As funny as it may seem and as sarcastic, we kept giving him his left hand. He goes left 85 percent of the time. He spins back and comes back to his left. So it's something we'll live and learn by.”

Things might have gotten ugly, but U of L was scoring, too. At one point, Jones and Rozier scored 22 out of 24 points for the Cardinals. After finishing the first half with 2 points and 9 assists, Jones had 20 points and 1 assist in the second. It's the changing nature of his role, depending on the flow of the game, who else is making shots and what the team needs.

“You learn how to balance it out,” Jones said. “I'll always be able to score. Everybody knows I can pass on the team, the first half the shots weren't there so I tried to pass it. I passed in the first half, still got my teammates great shots in the second half and scored when I needed to.”

Harrell, back in his home state for the first time in ACC play, hit a pair of three-pointers early and scored 20 easy points in the first half before being a bit more quiet in the second. Pitino said as much as Harrell has improved his shooting and passing, he wants him back on the offensive glass a bit more.

“Montrezl is a very active basketball player,” Pitino said. “We're trying to get him to go to the offensive glass between 75 and 85 percent of the time. On offensive rebounds he's right about 50 percent now, and we want to get him back to (75 or 85). But he's worked a lot on his shooting. He's a good passer. He's long. He's a hard-worker. There's very few players in the country with that kind of energy.”

Rozier said he expects the Cards to address their defensive issues in practice. They forced nine turnovers in the game's first 15 minutes, then only three more the rest of the game.

“I still feel we weren't aggressive,” Rozier said. “Not really because of the fouls, but because we went away from our style of play on defense. Come Wednesday (against Clemson at home), we've got to get back to bringing the pressure. We were doing a good job at the beginning of the season, now teams are getting too comfortable bringing it up the court. Our offense hasn't been good all year, but I'm just happy we got the win, offense, defense, whatever gets the job done.”

The Cards also got a big lift off the bench from freshman Shaqquan Aaron, who had 11 points, five rebounds an assist and a steal.

“Shaqquan Aaron gave us a nice lift, gave us a lot of energy,” Pitino said, then added, referring to the freshman, “I was happy to see that because in the last few days in practice we found another player who can help our team.”

Wake Forest actually nosed in front, 69-68, marking just the second time this season an opponent has led U of L at the 5-minute mark. But the Cardinals' defense stiffened down the stretch. From the point of taking that lead with 5:44 left until Mitchell Wilbekin made a jumper with 11 seconds left, Wake Forest did not make a field goal and was outscored 17-7.

The Cards continue conference play when Clemson visits the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

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