BOZICH | Can Louisville bench follow the Chris Jones' turnaround - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Can Louisville bench follow the Chris Jones' turnaround?

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Louisville guard Chris Jones has excelled in ACC play. Louisville guard Chris Jones has excelled in ACC play.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The first thing Rick Pitino does after every University of Louisville basketball game is watch a complete video replay.

He divides the clips into good and bad – and writes a long list of notes.

For the last three games, the star of the good clips has been a guy who has escaped from the bad clips that he dominated in late December. That would be Chris Jones, the Cards' senior guard.

The star of the bad clips lately have been the guys who are not giving Jones, Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell enough assistance. That would be Louisville's bench.

“This is a team, the veterans give you great work ethic every day,” Pitino said. “The young players don't know how to work. They have to learn how to work.”

Pitino said more. Much more. This week, as Louisville prepares for home games against Virginia Tech Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Duke on Saturday, the young guys are the ones Pitino is trying to reach.

Two weeks ago it was Mr. Jones. Now it is Mr. Onuaku, Mr. Snider, Mr. Aaron, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Mahmoud.

“This is a very unusual group (of freshmen) because they're weak physically, they're weak emotionally and they're weak basketball-wise,” Pitino said. “So it's a different type of group.

“Like Nanu (Onuaku, the freshman center) isn't weak physically, but he doesn't have a very strong work ethic. If he had Mangok's (Mathiang) motor and desire, that kid would be one of the best freshmen in the country, but it just takes a while to build that.”

Considering the criticism Jones received for the bogus dive he took against Kentucky and his subsequent benching against Long Beach State, he deserves recognition for the way he has performed in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Check the numbers. The first numbers will be Jones' averages through the end of December, the second will be what Jones has averaged against Wake Forest, Clemson and North Carolina.

SCORING: Before -- 11.4 points per game; After – 21.

ASSISTS: Before – 2.7 assists per game; After – 5.7.

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE: Before – 31 percent; After – 50.

THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE: Before – 30 percent; After – 50.

FREE-THROW ATTEMPTS: Before – 4.5 per game; After – 6.3.

MINUTES: Before – 27.5; After – 36.3.

“Chris is the type of guy who always has his hands in the cookie jar,” Pitino said. “If you allow his hands to go in the cookie jar, he'll take all the cookies.

“He'll do all the wrong things is what I'm saying. So you have to make sure Chris does all the right things.

“He is a great guy and a lot of fun to coach because he'll bring it every single practice, but if you allow him to have bad habits, he'll have a lot of bad habits. If you don't allow it, he won't.”

Is keeping your hands out of the cookie jar an issue, Mr. Jones?

“I don't know what means,” Jones said, with a laugh. “What does that mean? … Coach P, he's always got something up his sleeve. If he's got to keep an eye on me, he's got to keep an eye on me.”

Do you like cookies?

“Yeah, I do,” Jones said. “I've got a sweet tooth. Obviously he cut me off of it last year. Don't tell him but I've been sneaking it and getting back on it. I hope it don't get out there.”

What has gotten out there is how well Jones has played the last three games. Why?

“I just listened to him and started watching more film, started asking more questions,” Jones said. “When you're struggling, you don't want to struggle the whole year. It'll make you look bad and you start hurting your team.”

Of course, the numbers have not been as good for the Louisville supporting cast, everybody but Jones, Harrell, Blackshear and Rozier. You saw what U of L got from its bench in the 72-71 loss at North Carolina Saturday – 0 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists.

The sample size is small (three games), but the trend line has not been good during Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Here are the Before/After numbers for the Supporting Cast: The first number is through December, the second for the three ACC games.

SCORING: Before – 17.5 points per game; After – 9.3.

REBOUNDS: Before – 17.4 per game; After – 14.

ASSISTS: Before 4.3 per game; After – 2.3.

FIELD-GOAL PERCENTAGE : Before -- 42 percent; After -- 35.

THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE: Before – 29 percent; After 17.

Jones has worked with Pitino to show that a player can turn his season around – at least for three games. The coach's next challenge will be stirring the younger players to follow.

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