CRAWFORD | Harrell after Louisville wins big at FSU: 'We're stil - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Harrell after Louisville wins big at FSU: 'We're still Louisville'

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AP photo. AP photo.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WDRB) — On Tuesday of this week, the University of Louisville basketball program was on the news for all the wrong reasons. Wall-to-wall headlines blared with news of recently dismissed point guard Chris Jones, charged with rape.

Cardinals coach Rick Pitino came back from a recruiting trip to Florida to meet with reporters to talk about the situation. But he kept getting one question he didn't expect.

“I was blown away by the media in Louisville,” Pitino said. “All they kept talking about was how this was going to affect the team. It affects the team mentally because one of our brothers got in trouble, but it was never going to affect us on the court, because we're going to play hard. I was puzzled by the questions.”

At Florida State, Pitino's players backed that up.

TRANSCRIPT | Pitino after Louisville's win at Florida State

The night before the story broke, while reporters were scrambling overnight to nail it down, two guys were up well into the morning in U of L's Yum! Center practice facility. Terry Rozier and Anton Gill were putting up shots.

On Saturday, it showed. This is how U of L responded: 20 assists, 11 three-pointers, five players in double figures, eight players scoring, 37 deflections, 32 points off turnovers, 22 points off the bench and an 81-59 victory over a Florida State team that specializes in playing ranked opponents tough at home.

Gill was a surprise weapon on offense. He had scored 15 points since Jan. 14. He went for 14 Saturday, 5-of-5 from the field, 4-of-4 from three-point range.

“Wednesday night we were up till 3 o'clock, on a school night, just putting in extra work,” Rozier said. “I told people he could be the difference for this basketball team. . . . I told him, just like Hargrave (prep school) days, just keep shooting. Don't overlook your shot. Once I saw him make the first one, I knew he was going to have one of those games.”

Rozier was not having one of those games. He didn't score a point in the first half. Still, U of L led by 10 at the break because he was passing, and the team was sharing the ball.

QUICK TAKEAWAYS: Louisville's win over Florida State

The assist total was one away from its season high. and the passing seemed contagious.

“Definitely. I think when you get each other involved, it just makes us a better team,” said Wayne Blackshear, who led the Cardinals with 18 points. “Everyone is feeling good about themselves. I think we had 20 assists tonight. We were just being active out there. We were just finding Anton, Trezl' was kicking the ball out a couple of times, everybody was just finding each other and out there being active.”

Montrezl Harrell added two highlight-reel dunks to his collection and finished with 16 points. Rozier added 10 points, 9 assists and six steals. Quentin Snider had 11 points and four assists.

“It was a terrific win for us,” Pitino said. “And I think we responded as a team should respond to a difficult situation, and played great team basketball. For the third time this year we got our deflection total. We had 20 assists, held them to six, guarded the three. . .  Everybody stepped up and played well. I  think that sometimes you look for silver linings in every cloud, and the silver lining here is, I think our freshmen — it's tough sitting on the bench and knowing that you're not getting in — but now they know they are getting in so our practices are better, enthusiasm is better.”

Blackshear was a key. Pitino has been pleading with him to make 60 percent of his offensive moves drives into the paint. When that happens, good things happen for the Cardinals.

Rozier said players didn't watch or listen to coverage of Jones this week. They went into a basketball bunker, tried to keep each other upbeat, and were focused on what Pitino told them.

“I think we bought into everything coach told us this week,” Harrell said. “Every little detail he gave us.”

Rozier said the team is aware of the dire predictions of what will happen to this team without Jones.

“We don't want to talk, we just want to respond, and we did that today,” Rozier said. “Just show them. Don't talk so much. Just step on the court and do it. Somebody has to get deflections, somebody has to make passes and hit shots. We all have to be active. Coach emphasized rebounding for us. We paid a lot of attention to personnel. And deflections, we had 37, if we do that, we'll be a tough team.”

As the calendar turns to March, with nationally ranked opponents Notre Dame and Virginia getting ready to visit the KFC Yum! Center, Harrell said he wants to prove that the program hasn't gone anywhere.

“Everybody says we're not the team we were, losing one of our key players,” Harrell said. “But I think we made a statement tonight. We showed everybody that we're still Louisville. We kept our defensive intensity. We're still Louisville. You have to look at what we've done throughout the years — this team has been nothing short of what was expected of it. We had Sweet 16 last year, but national championship, Final Four before that. We are still Louisville, no matter what.”

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