Louisville romps over Rutgers 102-54

mmaloney@herald-leader.comFebruary 16, 2014 

Rutgers Louisville Basketball

Louisville freshman Terry Rozier flew in for a dunk past the defense of Rutgers' Greg Lewis. Rozier had a career-high 16 points.

TIMOTHY D. EASLEY — AP

  • NCAA TOURNAMENT

    Louisville vs. Wichita State/Kentucky winner

    When: TBA
    Where: Indianapolis
    Radio: WMKJ-FM 105.5 Lexington
    TV: TBA
    Records: Louisville 31-5 (15-3 AAC)

LOUISVILLE — Louisville won by more than just a hair Sunday.

The 13th-ranked Cardinals, who earlier in the week were challenged by Coach Rick Pitino to grow beards, scalped Rutgers 102-54 in the KFC Yum Center.

U of L bombarded the Scarlet Knights by making a season-high 16 of 30 three-point shots, shooting 34-for-61 (55.7 percent) overall.

"Our guys, they just nailed their focus," Pitino said. "They pay no attention to who they're playing but play hard. ... They play their butts off.

"They don't look at the other team's record. They don't look at how the other team's playing. They just focus on winning a game, and I'm real proud of them the entire season."

As for the facial hair, "what we try to do in the dog days of February is try to do things to make sure we have fun, because people get tired," said Pitino, who says he is growing a beard for the first time in his life. "I told the guys 'let's have some fun.' February's a tough month."

So the hair will grow, at least until the Cards lose a game.

Already-bearded Luke Hancock scored a career-high 25 points and was among 12 Cards who scored. He shot 7-for-9 from the field, including 6-for-8 from three-point range, and 5-for-6 at the free-throw line to beat his previous high of 23 points.

"I think that's a Coach 'P' thing," Hancock said of U of L's ability to focus. "He's not going to let you relax, not going to let you sit back and not keep playing hard, getting after it. The entire time he's worried about defense, whether you're up five or you're up 50. He's worried about all the little things."

Freshman Terry Rozier added a career-high 16 points, going 4-for-7 on three-pointers, while handing out four assists and making three steals. About the only thing he didn't do was sprout a facial hair.

"Never shaved. Never," he said. "I don't grow it. Baby face, that's what I'm known as. ... Hopefully, by the time we lose, I will have some."

Wayne Blackshear added 10 points for U of L (21-4, 10-2 American Athletic), which has won four in a row and eight of nine games.

Russ Smith, who had scored in double digits every game this season, settled for seven points and five assists.

Montrezl Harrell had a team-high nine rebounds. He scored four points, getting his 59th dunk of the season to tie a program record.

The Cards have won nine in a row against Rutgers, including an 83-76 decision last month.

The Scarlet Knights (10-16, 4-9) were led by Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack with 10 points each. Rutgers was held to 35.4 percent (17 of 48) shooting and five three-pointers.

U of L opened the scoring with back-to-back threes by Smith and Hancock and was never headed.

Midway through the half, U of L scored three straight times from three-point range — twice by Rozier and once by Hancock — to push the lead to 29-14.

Another three by Rozier gave the Cardinals their biggest lead of the half, 36-16, with 5:04 left.

The gap was 43-24 at intermission.

"When you can't answer back, their confidence and mojo is at a high," Rutgers Coach Eddie Jordan said. "They hit a three and jump shots on the break. Their confidence was riding high. We didn't get back well enough. When we were in our zone, we didn't find (Hancock) well enough."

The margin was 48-27 early in the second half, when the Cards exploded for 21 points in a row. The run was fueled by five three-pointers, including two each by Hancock and Blackshear. Chris Jones had the other.

U of L also took care of the ball, with nine turnovers to Rutgers' 18. That translated to a 23-9 advantage in points off of turnovers.

"When we shoot the ball and don't turn it over, play hard, it makes your defense better," Pitino said. "And makes you better in all phases of the game."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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