CRAWFORD | Cards come out of the cold to edge Clemson 58-52 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Cards come out of the cold to edge Clemson 58-52

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I know what you're thinking. No. 5-ranked Louisville beat Clemson 58-52 in the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday night, but it was an ugly ending. And beginning.

Judging from the Cardinals' first-half shooting, the promotion in the arena was “Frozen” related. You thought they couldn't shoot it worse than they did in the first half against Kentucky? Wrong. They shot 22.2 percent in the first half against Clemson.

Let it go.

They opened the second half with a 17-0 run to take control of the game, and never lost their grip, though there were some slippery moments late in front of a crowd of 21,676 that braved below-zero wind chills to watch the 9 p.m. game.

VIDEO | Watch Rick Pitino's post-game news conference

The Cards fouled five times in the final 1:01 — despite having a lead. They shot 32.7 percent for the game, and that after warming up to shoot 42.9 percent in the second half. Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear shot 45 of the Cards' 55 shots.

The ACC Digital Network put an isolation camera on Montrezl Harrell. Here's how the All-American's night went. He played 5 1/2 minutes in the first half then sat until halftime after picking up two quick fouls. For the game, he got only five shots. Two of them were highlight-reel dunks, but at one point the IsoCam started following random fans though the arena hallways.

But look at it this way, U of L fans — at least there was no third-down spike at the end. And the Cardinals did emerge with the victory, improving to 14-1, 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

At halftime, with his team trailing 22-18 following its third sub-20-point half of the season, Pitino said he told his players they needed to understand they were facing a defensive-minded opponent.

He said he told them, “Guys, the championship team understood styles, and you don't.”

He said the team was impatient, and failed to execute at all on offense. He said that Clemson, for the past two years, has been a lock-down, deliberate defensive team, and that his team didn't understand the kind of game it would be.

“We didn't understand it was going to be a dogfight,” Pitino said. “These guys want to get up and down. They want to play. We've been a great zone (offensive) team the past two years. Luke (Hancock) was a big part of that. But we've gotten the ball inside against the best zone in America, and we're not getting it inside right now.”

Pitino said his guards whiffed on every pick-and-roll the team tried to run. He said the guards were going over the high pick “four feet too wide,” and that Clemson players were able to get through the screen, playing the Cardinals straight up.

“The guy got over the screen, and that's just beating the clock down,” Pitino said.

The Cards played without freshman center Anas Mahmoud, who suffered from migraine headaches during the day Wednesday. And freshman Shaqquan Aaron took a shot to the head during practice. But none of that, Pitino said, accounted for why his guards weren't running the pick and roll properly.

“I think that Terry and Chris just said, ‘Look, we've got Mangok (Mathiang) and Chinanu (Onuaku) in there who don't score a lot of points,” Pitino said. “‘Wayne (Blackshear) was having an off night, so we've got to score.' But they never used the screen. . . . If you never use the screen, we can never get a mismatch. . . . Russ (Smith) and Luke were great at it. Peyton (Siva) was great at it. They rub shoulders with the screen. They come off, force the other guy to switch, boom, boom, we get it inside. They literally went four feet, too wide on every pick-and-roll and I don't quite understand it. But we're going to work on it.”

The Cardinals still managed enough offense. Jones finished with 22 points, Rozier had 15 and Blackshear added 11. But they were outrebounded for a second straight game, 40-37, and had only 7 assists. They also got only two points off the bench.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said his team benefitted from Harrell sitting most of the first half, but couldn't overcome the Cardinals' big start in the second.

“They made some adjustments that really hurt us at the beginning of the second half,” he said. “We fought back and made it a game, had a chance, but couldn't get enough stops down the stretch. . . . When you play Rick's teams, you're going to have to make plays. As a coach, it's harder for you to have as big of an impact sometimes in games because there's just so much pressure and so much random trapping and different things that they do. It forces your guys to go make plays. We made some, but we didn't make enough.”

The Cards now have just a couple of days before facing No. 18-ranked North Carolina on the road. The Tar Heels are smarting after a home loss to Notre Dame, and Pitino said they present yet another change in style.

“You want to run, North Carolina will be more than happy to accommodate you,” Pitino said. “Duke will be more than happy to accommodate you. But certain teams are not going to do that. You have to win with defense, and that's what we had to do tonight.”

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