LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — North Carolina State guard Cat Barber was recruited heavily enough by the University of Louisville to make an official visit to campus that was among those mentioned in the recent book detailing allegations against the program. 

Maverick Rowan was a recruiting target of the Cardinals all spring and summer. His on-again, off-again saga was watched closely by fans and analysts who follow such things, as was his decision to reclassify.

Rowan and Louisville wound up parting ways, but they’ll meet again Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C. when the Cardinals face N.C. State at 7 p.m.

It’s not unusual. The Cards went hard after Bryant Crawford, the Wake Forest guard who scored 14 points a and dished out seven assists against them in Louisville’s win on Sunday night. Marcus Lee, who wound up at Kentucky, also visited Louisville.

When it comes to facing former recruiting targets, Pitino on Wednesday said it’s no big deal.

“They don’t think about it and neither do we,” Pitino said. “We recruited Cat Barber. We’re all recruiting the same guys. So it’s musical chairs, basically. Right now, I think every guy we’re in on is a junior or sophomore and the entire ACC is in on them.”

Rowan has started 13 of 14 games for the Wolfpack and is averaging 12.6 points and nearly four rebounds per game.

“He’s got a scorer’s mentality, like Damion (Lee),” Pitino said. “He’s got excellent range. Good foul shooter, and he’s got good size.”

Of perhaps more concern to Pitino and the Cardinals tonight will be Barber, who is averaging 25 points per game in N.C. State’s 10 victories, and 22.9 points per game on the season.

Barber has always been one of the toughest players in the league to contain off the dribble. But Pitino says his game has taken a step up with improvement to his shooting.

“I think Cat Barber is one of the premier guards in the nation and I say that not to hype him because we’re playing him,” Pitino said. “He is one of the players that really improved his shooting. He is shooting a high percentage, both from the foul line as well as the field. He’s a terrific mid-range shooter, great off the bounce and he’s also an excellent defensive player. When I look at a lot of basketball players, I look at both ends of the floor. He’s an outstanding charge guy, great hands, very long for 6-2. He’s someone that I think is one of the one-two … I won’t say someone’s the best because that’s subjective — but I think he’s one of the top two or three guards in the nation. It’s not only him, they shoot it so well at the 2-3 spot. You can’t come off too much. And they have a great post presence with two different types of post players.”

A year ago at the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals got into an up-tempo game with N.C. State and lost 74-65. In the NCAA Tournament, they’d addressed their defensive issues and beat the Wolfpack 75-65 in the Sweet 16 to advance for a shot at the Final Four. Montrezl Harrell had 24 points in that game and Terry Rozier added 17 points and 14 rebounds.

This team is entirely different, but many of the same defensive principles apply.

“We’ve got to be careful with a lot of things that we do in this basketball game,” Pitino said. “They’re great in transition. As I said they have a great outside game, a great inside game. Very well drilled, very well … their scheme is outstanding. Mark (Gottfried) does a terrific job with putting them in high percentage situations offensively. They’re also a very good defensive team. Not only does (Barber) shoot a high percentage, he gets to the line. One of the tops in the country at getting to the line. Then shooting a high percentage.”


Louisville is a 6-point favorite. . . N.C. State has won eight of its last 10 games but is coming off a 73-68 overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Jan. 2 in its ACC opener. Cat Barber scored 27 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the loss. . . . N.C. State will be the third-higest rated team Louisville has faced, according to Ken Pomoeroy’s index, at No. 76. Louisville is up to No. 4 nationally in the Pomeroy ratings and No. 27 in the RPI. . . . Shooting 50.8 percent on the season, Louisville ranks ninth in the nation in field goal percentage. The Cardinals lead the nation in scoring margin (+26.4), rank second in in rebound margin (+13.9) and scoring defense (57.4 ppg) and are fourth in field goal percentage defense (36.3 percent). . . . The series is tied 9-9. Louisville is 3-4 in games played in Raleigh. . . . Tonight’s game is a “black-out” game for N.C. State, which means Louisville will wear its white home uniforms to allow the Wolfpack to wear special black uniforms.

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