CRAWFORD | Jones, Mathiang, lead Louisville to lopsided win over - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Jones, Mathiang, lead Louisville to lopsided win over Virginia Tech

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AP photo. AP photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Attention fans, now playing the role of DePaul in the University of Louisville schedule, at least for this season, is the Virginia Tech basketball team.

The No. 6-ranked Cardinals (15-2, 3-1 ACC) needed a get-well game after a stinging last-second loss at North Carolina, and they got it from Buzz Williams' rebuilding Hokies. The Cards crushed Virginia Tech 78-63, though the game wasn't really that close. U of L rolled to a 29-point lead before giving their well-used starters a bit of a rest.

“That team was totally overmatched and I think they work really, really hard and I just wanted to make sure that they weren't embarrassed in any way possible because they work so hard,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said after the game. “It was good that we gave some guys an opportunity, with a big game coming up, to play, and I was real proud of the way our starters played tonight. They did a terrific job.”

VIDEO: Rick Pitino's news conference after win over Virginia Tech

It was this kind of game. Mangok Mathiang, who started at center, had 10 points in the first 13 minutes. It helped that Virginia Tech had only one starter taller than 6-8.

But Mathiang's performance largely happened because point guard Chris Jones was seemingly finding everyone. Jones, who was averaging 21 points, 5.7 assists, four rebounds and three steals in the three games prior to Tuesday night's, had seven first-half assists and finished with 11, to go with seven points.

Pitino was particularly pleased with Jones.

“We played well against Carolina. We played even better tonight,” Pitino said. “We're getting better. And I think it all stems from Chris Jones' willingness to be a leader and to be a point guard. I still want to see him take open shots, because we need that at times, but he was totally into getting people good shots and running the team and doing great things defensively. I'm real proud of his effort.

“He's becoming smarter and smarter,” Pitino added. “He's playing with the same kind of emotion, but now with intelligence as well. It's not just raw emotion. He's playing like a point guard should play. He's evolving into that.”

U of L shot to a 17-2 lead and never was threatened. The Cards led 43-24 at halftime after a buzzer-beating three pointer by Wayne Blackshear, who finished with 15 in the game.

Pitino emptied his bench, and not without reason. Montrezl Harrell left the game limping late in the second half, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

After the game Harrell said he rolled his ankle but that X-rays came back fine and that his ankle would be all right.

Jones got frustrated after being fouled on a fast-break and came out. And Pitino took Rozier out just to protect him. Rozier finished with 16 points and three rebounds in just 19 minutes. Over his past 10 games, Rozier is averaging 20.5 points per game.

“I thought they were very good,” Williams said. “They'e one of the best teams in the country. They'll play for a long, long time like coach's teams typically do. We've got to get better, a lot tougher, play a lot harder. In all the ways they're good, those are the ways that we need to improve.”

At the final TV timeout, the Cards had Quentin Snider, David Levitch, Dylan Avare, Jaylen Johnson and Matz Stockman on the court. And they kept scoring on the Hokies (8-8, 0-3), though the defense left something to be desired.

U of L outrebounded the Hokies 40-33 and outscored them in the paint 34-18. The Cards shot 47.7 percent for the game after cooling off late. 

“We were disappointed after North Carolina but we all know we're playing better as a team,” Rozier said. “We just need to keep improving, keep bringing guys along, keep playing hard and getting into the gym.”

Next up, U of L faces No. 5-ranked Duke at the KFC Yum! Center at noon Saturday.

NOTES:

-- Tuesday's game was the 37th meeting all-time between Louisville and Virginia Tech, but the first since the Cards earned a 78-74 win over the Hokies on Jan. 26, 1995 in a Metro Conference matchup in Freedom Hall. U of L has won 10 straight over Virginia Tech.

-- U of L is 10-0 this season when outrebounding its opponent, and is 74-1 over the past three seasons when leading at halftime.

-- The Cardinals' 19 assists on Tuesday, their second highest total of the season. They had 21 against Florida International on Dec. 5.

-- U of L's seven turnovers matched a season-low, achieved twice before this season. It was the fifth game in which they have finished with 10 or fewer turnovers, including four times in the past six games. U of L forced only eight turnovers -- a season-low for a U of L opponent -- and recorded a season-low three steals.

-- Jones' 11 assists were a career high, and the most for a U of L player since Russ Smith had 13 in a win over Connecticut last March at the KFC Yum! Center.

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